Officials begin investigation after cruise ship arrives at harbor with endangered whale corpse across bow: 'We are deeply saddened'

Officials begin investigation after cruise ship arrives at harbor with endangered whale corpse across bow: 'We are deeply saddened'

The arrival of a cruise ship in New York led to an investigation after authorities spotted an endangered whale across its bow.

What happened?

The Associated Press reported that the Meraviglia, a ship owned by Swiss-Italian line MSC Cruises, pulled into the Port of Brooklyn on May 5 with a dead 44-foot sei whale across its bow, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries spokesperson Andrea Gomez.

"We immediately notified the relevant authorities, who are now conducting an examination of the whale," cruise line officials said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of any marine life."

Gomez told the AP that officials transferred the whale to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and performed an autopsy on May 7. The results have not yet been revealed.

Why is this concerning?

According to NOAA Fisheries, vessel strikes and net entanglement are now the biggest threats to sei whales after the International Whaling Commission issued an edict to halt commercial whaling practices in the 1980s.

Rising global temperatures may be playing an interconnected part. The organization notes that sea traffic is expected to increase as new routes open because of melting sea ice. Additional noise pollution can also impact the ability of certain marine species to navigate their habitats.

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As for the nets, "hundreds of millions of marine animals" are killed or hurt every year by these nonbiodegradable entities, as detailed by Plastic Soup Foundation.

Many modern fishing nets contain plastic, a material overwhelmingly made from dirty fuels, like motor oil and gasoline. These nets then leach toxins into our environment.

One investigation found that a group of stranded marine mammals had high levels of PCBs, a now-banned harmful chemical that used to be used in many plastics.

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That's not to mention the 12.1 million tons of plastics that enter our oceans, per the Ocean Conservancy. Other animals have starved from the inside out after ingesting the material.

While it's unclear if the whale was alive before ending up on the ship's bow, its death is an unfortunate reminder of how our activities can negatively impact other creatures — and ultimately contribute to a less healthy planet for everyone who calls Earth home.

What can be done about this?

The AP notes that sei whales are an internationally protected species, and officials with MSC Cruises indicated that they adhere to all regulations intended to protect whales, including altering routes as needed to avoid collisions.

If a collision was indeed a factor in the whale's death, authorities will likely study the data and formulate a plan to limit the possibility of this happening again.

As far as plastic nets are concerned, some governments have already banned bottom trawling, a practice that can result in broken and abandoned gear.

You can help keep our planet and oceans healthy by participating in local cleanup efforts and swapping single-use plastic products, like grocery bags and razors, for reusable items made from less toxic and more durable materials.

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