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It's Not Your Imagination, There's An 'Exceptional Die-Off' Of Minke Whales Off N.H.. Mass. Coast


A viral video of a whale carcass falling from a front-loader and dumpster to the pavement in Rye this week highlights what's being called an "exceptional die-off" of Minke Whales off the coast of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse says scientists do not yet know the source of these dead whales.

It may take months, or up to a year, to get more specific results. And, in some cases, there may not be a clear pattern.

"We're having an exceptional die-off and we don't know what the core source of that is," he says. "It's probably some type of pathogen that is related to possibly the warming waters, where something's become a little more virulent or a little more prevalent."

LaCasse, speaking with NHPR on Friday, said he was responding to two more whale carcasses washing ashore in Massachusetts.

The case in Rye received national attention when a video by reporter Jason Schreiber showed the juvenile Minke Whale falling from the dumpster to the pavement. 

LaCasse said people often don't appreciate the unique, logistical challenge of moving such a large mammal. Crews were in the process of depositing the carcass to the dumpster in order to relocate it for a necropsy. "Doing necropsies is a really messy thing and sometimes what will happen is, if you get the opportunity to move an animal, you will," he said.

Minke Whales can weigh up to 20,000 pounds and be as long as 35 feet. They are not listed as endangered, but are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to NOAA.

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.
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