Second large whale in two weeks found dead north of Boston. May be endangered sei whale, normally found far offshore.

Manchester, MA - July 5, 2007
A forty foot whale that has been caught off the rocky shore of Manchester-by-the-Sea since the weekend will undergo a necropsy Tuesday led by the New England Aquarium. In the hopes of determining the cause of death, biologists will start in the early morning as they attempt to conduct a full animal autopsy and remove the approximately 20 tons of whale flesh from the site.

This whale is believed to be a sei (say) whale, which is an endangered species, and is rarely seen this close to shore. Sei whales are most commonly found at the edge of the continental shelf more than 50 miles offshore. The whale carcass was first reported to the Coast Guard early last week floating just north of the mouth of Boston Harbor. Last Wednesday, Aquarium rescue biologists took tissue samples of the floating whale. The whale’s body continued to float northward and arrived on the rocky outer reaches of Smith’s Point Saturday evening. Stormy weather Sunday and Monday have pushed it closer to shore.

The carcass does have some obvious trauma to its front fins and jaw, but it is possible for these injuries to have happened after the animal was dead. One of the goals of the autopsy will be to try to determine when those injuries occurred. Occasionally, floating whale carcasses are struck by vessels. The whale also has some marine gear on it, but that was picked up after it was dead as it was not on the floating cadaver last week.

Two weeks ago, a young, thirty-foot, male humpback whale was found dead in Rockport after being observed feeding close to shore. Necropsy results revealed that it died from massive blunt trauma to the head and upper body, most likely the result of a vessel strike.