NOAA Fisheries have officially announced an “unusual mortality event” for humpback whales from Maine to North Carolina, USA. The death toll leading to the declaration has risen to 41 whales from January 1 2016, to date and the “event” will now trigger a focused, expert investigation into the cause of the unusually high death count. The average annual humpback whale strandings reach eight per year — this historic data only goes as far back as 2000.
In 2016, 26 mortalities were recorded and there have already been 15 more since the beginning of 2017. Of the 41 whale mortalities in the last 16 months, 10 of the 20 closely investigated bodies had evidence of boat interactions. Beyond this, NOAA is unsure of the cause behind the elevated body count. They have no evidence that widespread disease, infection or maritime “noise” contributed to the issue and three prior investigations produced few results.