On Monday, September 24, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), the lead large whale response organization in New York State, was alerted that a deceased minke whale had been found on Indian Wells Beach in East Hampton.
When AMCS arrived onsite early Tuesday morning, the animal was caught in the surf, so the organization, along with the East Hampton Marine Patrol and the Highway Department, had to wait for heavy machinery to be brought in to secure the whale out of the tide and position it for a necropsy.
The necropsy took place Tuesday afternoon and determined that the minke whale was 18.7 feet in length. Since the animal was relatively decomposed and missing multiple internal organs, including the reproductive organs, AMCS was unable to determine the animal’s gender.
“Stranding investigations on all marine mammals and sea turtles are an important part of our conservation work as it provides valuable insight into the health of various species and what threats they face in our waters,” said AMCS necropsy program director Kimberly Durham. “Though a definitive cause of death could not be determined during the necropsy our team conducted for this animal today, samples were taken and sent to a pathologist.”
To honor the deceased aquatic mammal, Shane Weeks of the Shinnecock Nation performed a traditional ceremony for the whale, which is called “podtap” in Shinnecock. Weeks has led the sacred ritual at nearly every whale beaching on Long Island over the past several years.
“These events hold great cultural value to my people. The whales were also one of the staple foods for the indigenous people in the New England area historically,” Weeks shared. “Our whaling canoes could hold almost 100 people. This connection is still acknowledged to this day.”
If you happen to come across a live or deceased marine mammal or sea turtle strandings while on the beach, AMCS advises you contact the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829 or email [email protected] to report it.
“We will continue to share initial findings from stranding investigations with the public to raise awareness of these species, and will work with our partners to enhance our response efforts in the future,” added Durham.
For more information about Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, visit www.amseas.org.