Dead Sei Whale on Cruise Ship Prompts Federal Investigation

A dead 44-foot sei whale was found on the bow of the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship when it arrived in New York Harbor. A federal investigation led by NOAA is underway to determine the cause of death and whether the ship was responsible.

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Nitish Verma
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Dead Sei Whale on Cruise Ship Prompts Federal Investigation

Dead Sei Whale on Cruise Ship Prompts Federal Investigation

A dead sei whale, an endangered species, was discovered on the bow of the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship when it arrived in New York Harbor on Saturday, May 11, 2024. The incident has triggered a federal investigation led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement.

Why this matters: This incident highlights the urgent need for stricter regulations and measures to protect endangered marine species from human activities, such as vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. The consequences of inaction could lead to the further decline of sei whale populations, threatening the delicate balance of our ocean ecosystems.

The 44-foot mature female sei whale was relocated to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, where a necropsy was performed on Tuesday. The examination revealed a broken bone in the whale's right flipper, tissue trauma along its right shoulder blade, and a belly full of food. Biologists collected samples for further analysis, including histopathologic and biotoxin tests, to help determine the cause of death.

NOAA spokeswoman Andrea Gomez stated that the bone and tissue samples may shed light on whether the whale died before or as a result of the collision with the cruise ship. The investigation's findings could take days to weeks to be released.

Experts weighed in on the incident, with Andy Rogan, science manager of the whale conservation nonprofit Ocean Alliance, suggesting that the cruise ship was likely responsible for the whale's death due to the massive impact of its weight and power. Kathleen Collins, senior marine campaign manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, noted that passengers and crew might not have felt the collision because of the ship's immense size.

Sei whales, which inhabit coastal depths, face significant threats from entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes, according to NOAA. The agency documented approximately 6,300 sei whales between Nova Scotia and Florida from 2010 to 2013. NOAA urges East Coast boaters to remain alert, travel slowly, and report any sightings of injured, entangled, or dead whales and right whales.

Collins emphasizes that reducing vessel speeds can help prevent collisions, as the chances of mortality significantly decrease when ships slow down. The MSC Meraviglia released a statement asserting that it adheres to comprehensive measures to avoid accidents involving marine life. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of any marine life," MSC Cruises officials said.

The ongoing federal investigation aims to uncover the circumstances surrounding the sei whale's death and whether the MSC Meraviglia played a role in the incident. As the probe continues, the tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the challenges endangered marine species face in an increasingly busy ocean.

Key Takeaways

  • Dead 44-foot sei whale found on bow of MSC Meraviglia cruise ship in NYC.
  • Federal investigation led by NOAA Office of Law Enforcement underway.
  • Necropsy reveals broken bone, tissue trauma, and full stomach; cause of death unknown.
  • Experts suggest cruise ship likely responsible for whale's death due to massive impact.
  • Reducing vessel speeds can help prevent collisions and protect endangered marine species.