Monday, August 3, 2009

Humpback Whale Washes Onto Monmouth Beach

As thrilling as it is to spot a whale breaching on one of those whale-watching cruises, it is even more exciting to see one off the NJ coast.

So, it is quite the reverse to see a dead a dead humpback washed up on one of our beaches.

That is what happened last week when a juvenile humpback washed up dead onto Monmouth Beach.

Because the whale hit the rock sea wall before ending up on the beach, it was difficult for scientists to clearly determine the cause of death.

This can also be a teachable moment. The shocking sight of the dead whale with its stomach literally inside out coming out its mouth, indicates that it was likely to have been hit by a ship in the stomach. The major threats to many whales are entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes. In our NJ waters, tanker ships are quite common.

A child examining the detached baleen from this whale will hopefully be told something about baleen whales.

Perhaps, the incident will create a conversation about how a reduction of speed by large ships entering areas where whales are present reduces strikes because it allows whales to move away after hearing the ship's engines.

Whales that was up dead on NJ beaches are generally cut in pieces and the remains are buried somewhere on the beach, according to officials with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. It appears that this whale was dead for a week before it washed ashore.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center has worked since 1978 to help not only stranded whales, but dolphins, seals and sea turtles that have washed ashore along the Jersey Shore.

For more coverage and photos: