Ship Strike Likely Killed Giant Fin Whale

Photo credit: The Riverhead Foundation
Photo credit: The Riverhead Foundation

A 58-foot-long whale that washed up last week along a New York beach was likely killed by a collision with a vessel.

An necropsy performed by team of researchers with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation found that the male Fin whale died of blunt force trauma consistent with a ship strike. There was also evidence of advanced decomposition and extensive bruising on right dorsal and lateral sides of the animal when it washed ashore, the group said.

The whale was first spotted on Smith Point Beach on Long Island, New York last Thursday.

Fin whales are second-largest species of whale and can grow up to 75 feet long and weigh in at 40 to 80 tons in the North Atlantic. NOAA lists vessel strikes as the number one threat against the species after commercial whaling ended in the late 1980’s in the North Atlantic. Of all species of large whales, fin whales are most often reported as hit by vessels, according to NOAA.

NOAA Fisheries Service has a Ship Strike Reduction Strategy in place that restricts the speed of large vessels during certain times of the year and in certain areas off the U.S. east coast from Florida to Maine, however the rules are primarily targeted towards the protection of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.