NORTH WILDWOOD, N.J. – The body of a young humpback whale was found close to the New Jersey shore over the weekend, prompting a response from local and state officials to remove it.
The whale’s body was found caught under a dock at the Grassy Sound Marine in North Wildwood.
The New Jersey State Marine Police were notified of the discovery on Sunday, and according to a Facebook post from Grassy Sound Marina, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center were also alerted to the dead whale.
Grassy Sound Marina owner Jim Mooers said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he spotted a large group gathering in the distance.
"So, I took a closer look, I saw something lodged underneath the dock across the way," Mooers said. "I took my binoculars out, and immediately I saw that it was a whale. I could tell from the size of it."
Fishermen in the area near Sea Isle, Avalon and Hereford inlet had been reporting a dead humpback whale in the area, according to the Facebook post, and Mooers told FOX 29 Philadelphia he believes it was the same whale that was later found washed up.
It's believed that the whale had been dead for some time, and may have been injured by the propeller of a ship or was sick, according to FOX 29. Because the whale was already decomposing when it was discovered, wildfire officials won't be able to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.
Local and state officials eventually were able to free the body, and the dead whale was taken to a marshy area, so it could decompose and sink to the bottom of the ocean.
According to NOAA, whale stranding can happen for a number of reasons, including vessel strikes or entanglements in fishing gear. Other natural causes can include disease or stress.
Currently, there is an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) among humpback whales after elevated mortalities have been reported along the Atlantic coast from Maine down to Florida. A NOAA Fisheries spokesperson said this particular UME has declined substantially over the past several years.
NOAA data shows of the whales examined between 2016 and 2022, about 50% had evidence of human interaction, either from a boat strike or fishing entanglement.
From 2016 to 2022, 17 humpback whales were stranded in New Jersey. Massachusetts saw the most whale strandings during this UME with 34 and 32 humpbacks stranded in New York.