A stranded whale in Moriches Bay off Long Island was euthanized on Wednesday afternoon.
The humpback whale had been stuck on a sandbar since Sunday, but efforts to save the whale were unsuccessful.
“The veterinary team assessed the animal this morning and determined it was thin, limp, weak, minimally responsive, had evidence of neurological abnormalities, and extensive skin injuries with evidence of infection,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. “Based upon these findings, the most humane option was to euthanize the whale since its chance of surviving in the wild was minimal.”
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The whale was first spotted feeding in shallow waters of about one to two feet in Seatuck Cove. The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation tried to help move the whale off of the sandbar, but the whale remained stranded. During high tide, the whale couldn’t get free; waves were created by boats to help the whale, but nothing worked.
"It's just very sad, that's all I can say," Chuck Bowman, president of the board of directors of the Riverhead Foundation, told Patch. "The Riverhead Foundation usually has good outcomes. But this wasn't one of them."
Earlier reports said that residents were discouraged from helping; someone tried to dredge a canal on the sandbar near the whale, but the Coast Guard and police kept them away, ABC7 reported.
"A lot of the people that live here on the bay have been able to hear it from their windows at night crying," Vincent Conwell, a Patchogue resident, told ABC7 on Tuesday.
NOAA said that a stranded whale oftentimes has underlying issues, like malnutrition.
“Thus, refloating a large whale may not be in its best interest, as it is already sick,” NOAA said in its statement. “Additionally, marine mammal biologists warn that efforts to haul whales off beaches can cause more harm to the animal as strong pressure on the tail or flippers can result in internal injuries, and put people involved at risk.”
Veterinary teams from NOAA, the Riverhead Foundation, International Fund for Animal Welfare and North Carolina State University assessed the stranded humpback whale and a necropsy has been ordered to find out what caused the stranding.
"It's clear that this response was not limited by resource availability; rather, the tidal conditions and other oceanic or biological factors that led to this stranding overtook any ability by our responders to rescue it,” John Bullard, director of NOAA's Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, said.
"The state devoted all available resources this week to save the whale and we, along with many New Yorkers, are saddened by the today's unfortunate outcome,"Basil Seggos, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, added.
Moriches Bay is not a common place to see humpback whales, but it is common to see whales off the south shore of Long Island.
Whales have been spotted in New York Harbor and off the coast of New Jersey recently.
NOAA recently revised the Endangered Species global listing of humpback whales earlier this year and a number of populations are no longer listed, including those most commonly found off the coast of New York.
The organization said that any information on this event or other stranding emergencies should be reported to 631-369-9829.