Suzanne Thurman, the executive director of the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, Delaware's marine mammal stranding team says it looks to be a humpback whale, reports Delaware Online. None had an infectious disease, but some had low levels of biotoxin exposure, which she said was typical for a large whale species. "Local fishermen and others at Port Mahon often describe seeing whales out in the water and swimming".
NOAA refers to the mass death as an Unusual Mortality Event (UME), and at a news conference yesterday officials said they don't know the reason for the high number of them. Fauquier thinks that there is a hidden threat that affects humpback whales.
Since the beginning of 2016, there've been 41 shored, dead whales reported on the coast between ME and North Carolina, which is a huge amount considering that usually around eight humpback whales per year are beached in that area.
Two of those dead whales were found in Maryland waters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries department.
"This begins the process of an investigation. that could take months to years to complete", NOAA Stranding Coordinator Mendy Garron in a statement, as per Asbury Park Press.
An "unusual mortality event" is defined by the Marine Mammal Protection Act as "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response".
Some regular visitors to Cape Ann are being scrutinized for an unusually large number of deaths among their population.
Animal autopsies - known as necropsies - have been performed on 20 whales. Ten seem to have been hit by ships.
Greg Silber, the coordinator of recovery activities for whales in the Office of Protected Resources, said the cause behind the surge of ship strikes is unknown.
"Smaller vessels - they tend to be propeller strikes", Silber said.
While no humpbacks have died off Cape Ann recently, last May, the 29-year-old Foggy was discovered entangled in fishing gear about 4 miles off the coast of Gloucester and Rockport.
"The tragedies have occurred in Orchard Beach, the Bronx and the Rockaways in Queens as well as in New Jersey and other states", Seawright said. They displayed evidence of blunt force trauma and deep cuts in their bodies from propeller blades. In each instance, the agency was unable to determine the cause of death.
The last unusual mortality event declared for humpback whales was in 2006.