A dead humpback whale washed up onto Ponquogue Beach in Hampton...

A dead humpback whale washed up onto Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays on Thursday afternoon. Credit: Joseph Sperber

A humpback whale found floating dead last week in Shinnecock Inlet likely died of blunt force trauma, officials said Monday.

A spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division, Andrea Gomez, said that the results of a necropsy conducted Friday indicate "the cause of death was suspected blunt force trauma,” and said samples were collected for further analysis.

The indication means it's possible the 47-foot-long humpback died following a collision with a ship.

Officials said the death appears unrelated to that of a 28-foot-long female whale found the same day in Raritan Bay, New Jersey.

“While these whales were seen on the same day,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement, “their different levels of decomposition indicate that these strandings were not related.”

Officials said that on Thursday, the deceased humpback drifted into Shinnecock Inlet and was later towed out of the inlet and beached on an Atlantic Ocean beach in Hampton Bays. A necropsy was performed by the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, NOAA Fisheries said.

“While the carcass was heavily decomposed, scientists observed bruising in the blubber & muscle on both sides of the head,” NOAA said.

Officials have not further characterized the injuries — or their potential cause — and AMCS did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking comment Monday. However, NOAA Fisheries said that the necropsy performed by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center on the female whale recovered in Raritan Bay found it had suffered “bruises, lacerations & fractures in several places across its body, including fracture on its skull & left pectoral fin, which had been severed” — and said that those injuries, in fact, were consistent with a likely vessel strike.

Gomez said Monday that since 2016 NOAA Fisheries has been monitoring what it has classified as an Unusual Mortality Event for humpback whales due to elevated strandings along the East Coast.

Currently, 198 humpback whales are included — though NOAA has only been able to examine 90 of those, mostly because some carcasses were too decomposed for a necropsy — or were discovered too far out at sea or were stranded on protected lands with little or no access.

Of the 90 whales that were examined, 36 had injuries “consistent with human interaction” — meaning a vessel strike or entanglement.

The remaining whales that did not have evidence of interaction “either had an undetermined cause of death,” NOAA said, or had “other causes of death including parasite-caused organ damage and starvation.”

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