Minke whale - NMFS photo.jpg

Mystic Aquarium staff aided in responding to the discovery of a dead minke whale off the Rhode Island coastline earlier this week. The whale was killed after becoming entangled in fishing nets, officials said. Courtesy Mystic Aquarium

WAKEFIELD — Animal rescue staff with Mystic Aquarium aided members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management early this week in responding to a minke whale entanglement off the coast of Rhode Island near Point Judith.

Experts from the Animal Rescue Program of Mystic Aquarium were called after Coast Guard officials located the whale carcass and coordinated with DEM to secure and transport the whale to shore near Wakefield. The aquarium's team joined by the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society at the shoreline to perform a field necropsy and retrieve gear for further analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Mystic Aquarium scientists stressed that the death of this minke whale is a clear and stark example of the need to prioritize investment in conservation research, as experts continue to fight the tide of extinction for cetacean species disappearing from our oceans.

“The tragic loss of this animal is a sad but important reminder of the dire circumstances many cetaceans currently face,” said Dr. Stephen M. Coan, president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium. “The environment where these whales live is changing rapidly due to the impact of human activity and climate change. We must make every effort now to ensure a future for these incredible species.”

According to data from the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration, there have been over 100 minke whale strandings reported since 2017. North Atlantic right whales — which are on the brink of extinction — and humpback whales are vulnerable to strandings and mortality events as well, and have had over 150 reported strandings since 2016 per NOAA.

Since 1975, the Animal Rescue Program has been rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing sick, injured, and stranded marine animals along 1,000 miles of the Northeastern coastline throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. The animal rescue team responds to an average of 150 hotline calls each year.

The aquarium encourages anyone who finds a stranded or injured marine mammal or sea turtle to call the 24-hour Animal Rescue Hotline at 860-572-5955, ext. 107.

— Jason Vallee

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