Friday, July 02, 2010

{Press} Dead whale towed ashore near Dewey

MOLLY MURRAY • The News Journal • July 1, 2010

A large, northern right whale – the most endangered of all North Atlantic Whale species – was towed to Delaware Seashore State Park today after it was discovered dead and floating about 46 miles off the Delaware Coast.

A team that includes some of the region’s foremost experts on large whale species began cutting away parts of the 45.2-foot long creature to determine how it perished.

That process, including an analysis of the remaining skin as well as flesh and organ samplescould take months as fisheries experts look at everything from the possibility of chemical or toxin exposure to disease, parasites or signs that the whale may have been struck by a passing ship, said David Morin, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries service.

“It’s definitely not a fresh carcass,” he said.

Much of the skin was missing. The baleen – that the whale would have once used to filter its food – was gone, said Suzanne Thurman, executive director of the MERR Institute, Delaware’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The Delaware group is standing by to assist with the necropsy but because northern right whales are so rare – the population is estimate to number 300 to 400 in the North Atlantic – federal officials assembled a coastwide team of experts to respond to the beach at the state park, just south of Dewey Beach.

Delaware has had its share of dead and stranded whales wash ashore – including a massive fin whale earlier this year.

But state standing teams have never responded to a right whale, Thurman said.

Two live right whales swam into Indian River Inlet in January 2007 and several years earlier, a right whale swam up the Delaware Bay and River and ended up at Philadelphia before it made its way back to the ocean.

The Coast Guard Cutter Legare, which was returning to Portsmouth, Va., from a 33-day deployment in the mid-Atlantic, discovered the whale Tuesday floating off-shore.

Crews on the ship took photographs of the large whale and provided them to
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

1 comment:

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