Whale Deaths Trigger Third Unusual Mortality Event on Atlantic Coast

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Another species of whale is in trouble along the Atlantic Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has just declared an Unusual Mortality Event for the minke whale in 2017 and 2018.

In the past year, 29 minke whales were stranded, and only one of those survived. The deaths have been seen from Maine to South Carolina, with the greatest concentration in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. The minke whale isn't endangered, but that is more than double the average number of deaths in a given year.

NOAA says this is the first time it has declared Unusual Mortality Events (UMEs) for three different whale species in the same area. There are also active UMEs in place for humpback whales and North Atlantic right whales.

But NOAA says the agency doesn't yet know if the deaths of all these whales in the Atlantic may be related, which is why it is so important to investigate them. Right now there is no clear connection between the three—there isn't just one cause of death across the three species, nor pattern in location or time.

An independent team of scientists will review the data collected on the minke whale deaths, collecting data for months or even years before it can draw a conclusion.

Megan Viviano