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Cruise ship arrives in NYC port with 44-foot dead endangered whale caught on its bow

Whale deaths spark debate in New York, New Jersey
Whale deaths spark debate in New York, New Jersey over offshore wind farms 04:07

A cruise ship sailed into a New York City port with a 44-foot dead whale across its bow, marine authorities said.

The whale, identified as an endangered sei whale, was caught on the ship's bow when it arrived at the Port of Brooklyn on Saturday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries spokesperson Andrea Gomez said. A necropsy conducted later confirmed the whale's species and determined that the creature was a mature female, said the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, a nonprofit organization that conducted the exam on an marine mammal.

A spokesperson for MSC Cruises said the whale was on the MSC Meraviglia, which docked at Brooklyn before sailing to ports in New England and Canada.

An endangered sei whale has undergone a necropsy, which may help determine whether or not it was killed by the ship. Michael McKenna/Marine Mammal Stranding Center

"We immediately notified the relevant authorities, who are now conducting an examination of the whale," officials with the cruise line said in a statement.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of any marine life," the officials said, adding that the Geneva-based MSC Cruises follows all regulations designed to protect whales, such as altering itineraries in certain regions to avoid hitting the animals.

The dead whale was relocated to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and towed to shore there to allow for better access to equipment and to conduct a necropsy, Gomez said.

The necropsy, an autopsy on an animal, was conducted on Tuesday, Gomez said. Samples collected from the whale will help biologists determine whether it was already dead when it was struck by the ship, she said.

Basic results of that exam showed evidence of tissue trauma in the area of the whale's right shoulder blade and a fractured right flipper, said the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. In a post shared Wednesday to its Facebook page, the organization also said those tests revealed the whale's gastrointestinal tract was "full of food." Samples of its organs will undergo toxicology reviews and analyses to identify any potential tissue diseases.

The dead whale was removed from the cruise ship and towed to shore in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Michael McKenna/Marine Mammal Stranding Center

"The tissue and bone samples collected will help biologists determine if the vessel interaction occurred pre or post mortem," said the conservation society.

Sei whales are typically observed in deeper waters far from the coastline, Gomez said. They are one of the largest whale species and are internationally protected.

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, sei whales eat 2,000 pounds of fish and plankton per day. They can grow up to 60 feet long, weigh as much as 50 tons and live on average between 50-70 years.

Wildlife Attractions In Kaikoura, New Zealand
A sei whale blows water off the coast of Kaikoura Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand on March 24, 2021.  Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The incident marks the latest endangered whale to be found dead along the East Coast.  Last month, federal authorities said a North Atlantic right whale that was found floating 50 miles offshore east of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was killed in a collision with a ship.

In March, NOAA said the first North Atlantic right whale baby born this season had died after being hit by a vessel.

Environmental groups have called for tighter regulations on commercial fishing and shipping to try to save the whales.

In Massachusetts, there's a proposal to put speed limits on fast ferries to Cape Cod and the Islands to protect whales. The ferry companies counter that this would drastically reduce service, and say their captains have never seen a right whale on the job. 

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