2017-2018 Minke Whale Unusual Mortality Event along the Atlantic Coast

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Photo: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society

Since January 2017, elevated minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through South Carolina. A table of stranding numbers by state is below.  While minke whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the species is not listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME).

Minke whale strandings

  2017 2018 Total
ME 5 3 8
NH 1 0 1
MA 8 5 13
RI 2 0 2
CT 0 0 0
NY 7 0 7
NJ 1 1 2
DE 0 0 0
MD 0 0 0
VA 2 0 2
NC 1 0 1
SC 0 1 1
Total 27 10 37

 

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Minke whale stranding locations along the Atlantic coast.

 

Causes of the minke whale UME

Full or partial necropsy examinations were conducted on over 60% of the whales. Preliminary findings in several of the whales have shown evidence of human interactions or infectious disease.  These findings are not consistent across all of the whales examined, so more research is needed.

As part of the UME investigation process, NOAA is assembling an independent team of scientist to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review the data collected, sample stranded whales, and determine the next steps for the investigation.

Report a stranding

The most important step members of the public can take to assist investigators is to immediately report any sightings injured or stranded whales (dead or alive). Make the report by calling the Greater Atlantic Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at (866) 755-6622, the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at (877) 433-8299. You can also contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. Do not approach or touch injured or dead marine mammals.

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