Humpback whale that washed ashore in Lido Beach to be necropsied
Marine biologists were conducting a necropsy Tuesday on a 41-foot humpback whale that died and washed up on shore in Lido Beach, but a cause of death may not be known for months.
Once the necropsy of the 29,000 pound mammal is completed. Hempstead Town workers were planning to bury the remains of the whale Tuesday evening in a 20- to 30-foot-deep hole by the dunes at Lido Beach.
Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were cutting open the humpback whale to pull it apart and conduct tissue sample to determine the cause of death.
The male whale was at least 40 years old when it died in the water and then washed on shore Monday, NOAA Spokeswoman Andrea Gomez said. Humpback whales can live about 80 to 90 years, she said.
The death was reported by the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in Hampton Bays, a local partner of NOAA.
“We don’t know the cause of death,” Gomez said. “We could know in a couple days to a week or several months if we have to send tissues to a lab for testing.”
NOAA could not be reached Tuesday night to confirm the necropsy had been completed.
Only a limited number of such necropsies can be done, as some whales die at sea, while others cannot be necropsied because they are still afloat or have washed ashore in remote areas, scientists note.
Of the whales that could be examined in a necropsy since 2016, about 40% showed evidence of “human interaction,” including a vessel strike or “entanglement,” NOAA said.
Hempstead payloaders and an excavator had to upright the whale on the beach so biologists could examine it.
Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said the town had to use nearby dredging equipment to move the whale after initial heavy equipment cables broke.
The town worked with NOAA and the Department of Environmental Conservation to select a location to bury the whale after it was determined it could not be buried closer to the shoreline.
“It was astonishing to see the size of it,” Clavin said. “We had to move to higher ground and give it a proper burial. We hope to never see one on our shores again.”
It is the 10th large whale to wash up on New York and New Jersey shores since Dec. 1 and the second to wash up on Nassau County’s South Shore since a 33-foot humpback whale washed up in 2017 in East Atlantic Beach.
There have been eight humpback whales and two sperm whales that have died off New York and New Jersey since December, Gomez said.
Humpbacks, which can grow as long as 60 feet, have been dying in elevated numbers from Maine to Florida since January 2016. NOAA has termed the 178 deaths an "unusual mortality event."
Whales may be attracted to Long Island due to larger fish populations off the coast and warmer waters, officials said. In 2017, a record 14 whales died, mostly off Long Island.
With Cecilia Dowd and Joan Gralla