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:
- a dead leatherback turtle found floating off Schoodic Point on Aug. 22, 2012
- a dead 50-ton sperm whale found floating in the same area on Aug. 14, 2012
- a dead young humpback whale found on Little Cranberry Island on June 30, 2012
- a report of an entangled minke whale spotted off MDI on June 21, 2012
- an unspecified dead whale that washed ashore in Scarborough in early June 2012
- a wave of more than 150 seal deaths in New England in the fall of 2011
- a dead minke whale that washed up on Sand Beach in Acadia on Aug. 21, 2011
- a dead right whale found in the waters of Washington County in August 2010
- a dead minke whale that washed ashore in Ogunquit in September 2009
- several trapped or entangled whales reported near the Canadian border in September 2009
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:
- Study: right whales may winter off Maine
- A whale of a task: Restoring the right whale population
- Marine mammal advocates gather for MDI conference
- Maine lobstermen accompany scientists on right whale excursion
- A whale of a time off Grand Manan Island
- Where the whales are
- Feds tag seals in Maine as part of first survey in more than a decade
- Allied Whale receives $100,000 grant
- New rules to protect North Atlantic right whales
- Rare humpback whale behavior discovered