Big Dead Things In The Sea

Personally, I don’t have any scientific insight into what’s happening in the Gulf of Maine or the oceans in general, but I can say the number of marine animal strandings I’ve written about in the past few years has increased. Twice in the past two years I’ve been up close and personal with a dead whale. I had never seen one until a dead minke whale washed up on Sand Beach in Acadia a year ago. What I or a few other people may have witnessed, however, reveals little about wider trends.

There have been other similar incidents that my colleagues have written about or otherwise documented. So, as a sample of the entanglements or marine mammal (or sea turtle) deaths that the BDN has covered over the past few years, I thought I would compile some links here for the curious to browse through.

The relevant stories along these lines that I could find are about:

BDN archives from before 2009, which aren’t available online, indicate that other troubled or dead whales were found along the Maine coast in March and July of 2007, June and July of 2006, September 2005, and in August 2003. In November 2004, a friendly beluga whale that had been dubbed Poco by people who saw it along the coast of Maine and New Brunswick was found dead on a South Portland beach.

Summer and fall of 2003 was an especially grim period for marine mammals along the New England coast. The recorded deaths of more than 20 dead whales – humpbacks, minkes, a right whale, a finback whale, and more – could have been caused by ship strikes, algae poisoning, or fishing gear entanglements, according to media reports. An Associated Press article from October 2003 indicated that herring boats were suspected of contributing to the deaths of nine whales and about 50 harbor seals that had washed ashore in Maine over the prior two months.

But I don’t list all these reports to be macabre. Most all of these species are endangered, and many, many people would like to see their populations restored so they are not in danger of going extinct. Officials and scientists say that the deaths and resulting media coverage could have one positive result: they might help raise awareness about the peril these species face and boost popular support for initiatives to save them.

So to help provide deeper context, here’s a list of links to a few more stories about what scientists are doing to better understand these animals and perhaps help their populations grow:

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 15 years, Bill Trotter keeps track of how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coast shape the lives, lifestyles and livelihoods of coastal Maine residents and visitors. A resident of Ellsworth, Bill covers Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Hancock County, fisheries, marine-related topics and more for the BDN. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.