Repeat-stranding Whale Finally Dies Near NJ’s Island Beach State Park
The 22-foot minke whale that stranded and unstranded itself several times in Barnegat Bay has died.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center said the whale was freed or coaxed twice from the shallow water Sunday and was last seen swimming in the middle of the bay Tuesday. The whale beached itself again several more times. It also became weaker and its body began to decline.
"Her body condition began to decline, with skin sloughing off the exposed parts of her body. The whale had become very lethargic and would no longer open her eyes," the MMSC said in a statement.
A veterinarian examined the whale in the shallow water of Sedge Island in Barnegat Bay adjacent to Island Beach State Park where it was non-responsive and determined it was suffering. It could not recover from the multiple strandings, the vet determined, and the whale was humanely euthanized, according to the MMSC.
Whale died on Thursday
The was towed to Island Beach State Park Thursday evening where its carcass was secured. It could not be buried on the beach because of the threat to groundwater by the chemical used to euthanize it.
It was transferred to a vehicle and taken to another location for a necropsy where fish bones were found in its stomach and a heavy load of parasites in the GI tract. There were no signs of trauma.
Samples were collected and will be sent for histopathologic analysis.
Cause of death
Andrea Gomez of NOAA Fisheries offered a possible explanation about the whale's behavior. She said each stranding is different and the U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network responds to better understand the reasons for the stranding.
"In many instances, whales have underlying serious health conditions including natural toxins such as domoic acid or saxitoxin poisoning, disease, emaciation, and human-caused injuries. In some cases, a relatively healthy animal may strand due to topographic and oceanographic conditions, weather, or acute disturbance, generally human-caused," Gomez told New Jersey 101.5 in an email.
Why so many strandings?
The whale is the 16th to strand itself on a Jersey Shore beach in 2023, according to the MMSC.
Supporters of wind power development off the Jersey Shore say there is no scientific connection between the deaths and work mapping the ocean floor to prepare for construction.
Opponents of the projects will hold a rally in Point Pleasant Beach on Saturday on the boardwalk next to Jenkinson's main pavilion at 11 a.m., rain or shine. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J. 4th District, Point Pleasant Mayor Paul Kanitra and Seaside Park Mayor John Peterson are scheduled to attend.
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