Dead harbor porpoise reported in Long Beach

A dead harbor porpoise lays on the beach A dead harbor porpoise lays on the beach near Lafayette Blvd. in Long Beach. (May 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim Staubitser

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A dead harbor porpoise was discovered early Friday on the sand near Lafayette Boulevard in Long Beach, officials said. A spokesman for The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation said the organization will attempt to recover the carcass and perform a necropsy -- to determine how the mammal died.

A harbor porpoise is one of six species of porpoises and usually are about 5 or 6 feet long. They generally live into their teens, Riverhead director-senior biologist Robert DiGiovanni said, noting that the marine mammal lives in a variety of environs -- both in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

It was not immediately clear how old the dead mammal might be, and DiGiovanni said his organization would be able to gain valuable information about its life -- as well as how it came to end up dead on the sands of Long Beach -- from a necropsy.

He stressed, however, that funding concerns have placed a strain on research and rehabilitation projects, including necropsies, and said that could impact the amount of information the organization can acquire from this case.

DiGiovanni said it is common for the organization to receive calls about stranded or deceased whales, dolphins and sea turtles and that information amassed from studies and necropsies can assist in determining patterns or trends that could affect specific marine populations.

Funding comes in the form of federal grants and corporate, public and private donations, he said.

The organization learned of the dead porpoise after receiving a call to its hotline early Friday, DiGiovanni said.

He said that the organization had on April 27 released another harbor porpoise, nicknamed Noodle, back into the Atlantic off the South Shore beach. That porpoise, recovered from a marsh area in Maine, came to Riverhead malnourished and underweight and was rehabilitated over a six-month period.

That porpoise was released with a satellite tracking device, DiGiovanni said, and is now somewhere off Nantucket, Mass.

Long Beach police said they could not immediately comment on the porpoise being recovered on the beach -- or what was being done to keep the public away from it.

DiGiovanni said marine mammals, such as porpoises, are protected species -- and that the public should remain at least 50 yards from any beached mammal, whether it is alive or deceased.

The organization determined the mammal was a harbor porpoise after examining a photograph of it, DiGiovanni said.

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