Propeller struck whale, necropsy found. But did that kill humpback?

Propeller wounds were found on the dead whale that most recently washed ashore in Seaside Park, but a necropsy will determine if those occurred before or after the death of the 30-feet humpback, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

Stranding Network members from New Jersey, Maryland and New York came together Friday to complete the necropsy of the whale that was first seen floating offshore on March 1, a post from the center said. While the female whale was "fairly decomposed," the teams were able to determine that she was in good body condition but had several internal and external injuries.

The injuries included bruising on the head, section of fractured skull and sharp force trauma, the center said, which was consistent with propeller wounds on the right lateral side. Evidence of previous entanglement scars were also documented.

The team obtained samples from the wounds and other parts of the whale that will be sent out for further testing to determine if she was injured before or after she died, according to the post. Full results may not be available for many weeks.

First responders remove an approximately 30ft juvenile humpback whale that died at sea and washed up on the M Street beach.   Seaside Park, NJThursday, March 2, 2023
First responders remove an approximately 30ft juvenile humpback whale that died at sea and washed up on the M Street beach. Seaside Park, NJThursday, March 2, 2023

The whale was buried on the beach after the necropsy, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said.

This whale - which came ashore Thursday on the M Street beach - is the ninth reported dead whale in the state since December 1.

Other recent strandings include:

Seaside Park Mayor John A. Peterson Jr., who was at the scene Wednesday when the whale was spotted, wants to halt off-shore wind energy development and investigate the deaths, as do some other local officials and environmental organizations.

"It's a very, very sad day, not just for us in Seaside Park, but I think for everyone throughout the Jersey Shore and indeed throughout the whole state of New Jersey," he said. "The whales are speaking to us. And I think the message is loud and clear that we should pause, stop what we're doing. Something is being done differently in the ocean in the last few months that has caused this dramatic upturn in the deaths of whales and dolphins along the coasts."

However, experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is no evidence that the noise used to map the ocean floor is leading to the strandings.

"Although these strandings have generated media interest and public scrutiny, humpback whale strandings are not new nor are they unique to the U.S. Atlantic coast," said The Marine Mammal Commission, an independent government agency tasked with evaluating human impacts on marine mammals.

NOAA has documented unusual numbers of deaths of humpbacks, North Atlantic right whales and minke whales dating back to 2016 and 2017.

"All whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes touching, feeding or otherwise harming these animals illegal," the post said. "The best way to assist these animals, and keep them and yourself safe, is by calling trained responders and maintaining a 150-foot distance."

The center urged individuals to call their hotline at (609) 266-0538 to immediately report any sick, injured or deceased marine mammals and sea turtles in the state. To report strandings in other states in the northeast, call the NOAA's stranding hotline at (866) 755-6622.

Jenna Calderón covers breaking news and cold cases in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Before coming to the Press, she covered The Queen City for Cincinnati Magazine in Ohio. Contact her at 330-590-3903;

Additional reporting for this story was done by Amanda Oglesby.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Whale deaths NJ: Propeller struck humpback, necropsy found