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Update: Moriches Bay Humpack Whale Stranding

Tuesday, January 17, 2017: Community Meeting in Moriches Bay Set for February 

There will be a community meeting on February 7, 2017, from 4-6 p.m. in Farmingville, NY, to present information related to the November 2016 stranding of a humpback whale in Moriches Bay. 

The meeting is free and open to the public.

At the meeting, NOAA Fisheries staff will present an analysis of the large live whale stranding response, lessons learned by the agency and its partners, and plans for a new collaboration to respond to marine mammal strandings on Long Island. There will be time for questions and comments from community members following the presentations.

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Time: 4-6 p.m.
Location: Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville, NY 11738

This meeting will also be available by Webinar:

Event number: 666 703 797
Event password: Meeting123

Conference Call in Information: 
Conference Line:  866-647-1746
Participant Code: 6042534

For more information about meeting logistics, contact Mike Asaro, NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region at 978-282-8469.

See the agenda.

Wednesday, November 30, 3 pm: Preliminary Necropsy Findings

On Monday, November 28, a necropsy was performed on the stranded sub-adult female Moriches Bay humpback whale. At the time of the necropsy, the whale was in a state of moderate decomposition, which hampered the examination. 

Initial necropsy observations include thin body condition, external markings consistent with previous entanglement, findings of trauma including bruising and hemorrhage in multiple muscles, congestion of the lungs, and presence of parasites. 

The necropsy team collected multiple samples that were sent for further analysis, including histopathology (evidence of disease in tissues). These findings will be available in the next 2-4 weeks. However, additional testing may not reveal the cause of stranding.

Monday, November 28, 5 pm: Preliminary Statement on the Necropsy

Multi-organizational team conducting the necropsyMulti-organizational team conducting the necropsy of the stranded Moriches Bay whale. Photo taken under MMPA/ESA permit no.18786-01

Today, approximately 20 representatives from our Northeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network partners, including Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine Mammals of Maine, Marine Mammal Stranding Center, Specially Trained Animal Rescue Team, and NOAA Fisheries, are conducting a necropsy on the juvenile female humpback whale that stranded in Moriches Bay, New York, on Sunday, November 20.

The purpose of the necropsy is to document the whale's life history, to examine any injuries, and to obtain tissues samples for health information, such as pathology.

"The necropsy has now wrapped up," says Dave Morin, NOAA Fisheries' incident commander. "We expect to have final results in a few weeks, and will share the results with the public."

After the necropsy was completed today, the whale will be buried at the necropsy site in Cupsogue Beach County Park.

We are committed to learning as much as we can from this stranding event.

Media Availability: Monday, November 28, 11 a.m. at Cupsogue Beach County Park

Dave Morin, NOAA Fisheries’ incident commander and large whale disentanglement specialist, will provide an update on the necropsy.

Dead humpback whale at Cupsogue Beach County Park, Long IslandCupsogue Beach, Long Island: Juvenile humpback whale that stranded in Moriches Bay on 11/20 in place for necropsy on 11/28

Sunday, November 27, 2pm

On Sunday, November 27, the Moriches Bay humpback whale was moved to Cupsogue Beach County Park at approximately 9 a.m., where a team of marine scientists will conduct a necropsy, or animal autopsy, on Monday morning.

Members of the necropsy team are taking external measurements and other information about the whale this afternoon. The whale has been identified as a female, 29.5 feet long, approximately 15 tons.

The necropsy team will do external examinations and then open the body cavity and examine each organ and the skeletal structures. This documents the condition of the animal with insights to what had happened before it went into the bay, the extent of injuries associated with the stranding, collect life history information, and obtain tissues samples for health information such as pathology.

The necropsy team includes approximately 20 representatives from our Northeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network partners, including Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Marine Mammals of Maine, Marine Mammal Stranding Center, and NOAA Fisheries.

Juvenile humpback on beach for necropsyThis juvenile humpback whale stranded on 11/20 on a shallow shoal in Moriches Bay.

More Info:

While it is not common to see humpback whales within Moriches Bay, it is common to see them off the south shore of Long Island, and several other animals have been sighted further west and off the New Jersey coast in the past several days in pursuit of prey small forage fish such as menhaden.

NOAA revised the Endangered Species listing of humpback whales globally earlier this year and a number of populations are no longer listed, including those found off New York.

NOAA asks that any information on this event or other stranding emergencies be reported to 631-369-9829. Reports of harassment may be made to NOAA Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964.

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Sunday, November 27 12:30 pm:

 The whale has been successfully towed to the necropsy site at Cupsogue Beach County Park. Please keep your distance for your own safety.

Side view of dead humpback whale at Cupsogue Beach County Park, Long Island

For the safety of those performing the necropsy, please do not fly over the necropsy site. Equipment used for a large whale necropsy includes very large and sharp flensing knifes, and it is a difficult job. We remind the public that FAA rules do not allow drones to fly over people. 

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Saturday, November 26, 3 pm:

We want to update you on the plans for the Moriches Bay humpback whale. This was a heartbreaking stranding event for all involved. Over the next two days, we will be removing the whale from the sandbar. It will be taken to the Cupsogue Beach County Park, where marine scientists will perform a necropsy.

From the earliest hours of this stranding, experienced marine mammal responders were pursuing different options to help free the whale, including an attempt with wave action from boats. Other methods were considered, but each presented the potential of causing significant damage to the animal, as we have seen in other strandings.

We are committed to learning as much as we can from this stranding event. NOAA will be available to hear from the community tomorrow from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Moriches Waterway Access Site. On Monday, we will share any preliminary results of the necropsy, and final results from lab reports when they are available.

The plan:

For more information on the stranding, see a statement from  our partners at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Questions? Contact Jennifer Goebel at 978-281-9175 or jennifer.goebel@noaa.gov.