Featured Image Credit: David G. Curran
By Sarah Sharkey
Three large whale species are in the midst of an unusual mortality event in the Atlantic Ocean. Three of the five total large whales that live in the Atlantic have been found dead on shore in usually high numbers in the last several months to a year.
Scientists are working hard to determine if these deaths are all linked or if they are simply coincidences. It is the first time that three unusual mortality events of three separate species have been happening at the same time, so the scientists at NOAA seem concerned by the recent events. The coordinator of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program, Teri Rowles, had this to say about the incidents
“We’re still going through the analysis to determine what might be the cause, and as we pull that information together across all the [species], then we’ll have a better idea if there is a common causal or contributing agent that can be driving those [deaths].”
The deaths include minke whales, humpback whales, and the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The most recent unusual mortality event was a bottlenose dolphin die-off in 2013-2015. That event was related to a disease. So far there is no evidence that the most recent events are related to a disease. Unfortunately, these deaths may just be the result of a negative human interaction.
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