Whale deaths

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 8:00pm

Since 2003 and in 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared unusual mortality events (UME) for humpback whales. The 2003 event was called in the Gulf of Maine (for large whales, but primarily humpbacks), and in 2006, the area that NOAA concentrated on was the North Atlantic.

The cause, according to NOAA’s website, for each of those events is “undetermined.” We hope that this most recent UME, which stretches from North Carolina to Maine, yields more conclusive results, in part because of the cry in some quarters that the Block Island Wind Farm is causing these deaths.

Here are some interesting facts: Rhode Island has been the location of five humpback whale deaths since April 2016, when the UME was declared. Virginia and Massachusetts have each seen nine; while North Carolina has been the site of 11 humpback whale deaths in the same time frame. The only state that has an offshore wind farm is Rhode Island.

What was alarming was that two humpbacks were stranded on Block Island just a month apart, which certainly raised awareness and concern about the issue. But NOAA needs to be allowed to do its work and get to the bottom of the matter. We live in an age of supreme cynicism, and any facts that help determine what is happening to these majestic creatures will be most welcome.