DUXBURY, MA — A 55-foot fin whale washed ashore on Duxbury Beach Monday morning. Next up for researchers and officials: Finding out how the whale got there, and disposing of a giant carcass.
The New England Aquarium will perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death. Two of the most common reasons of death that are caused by humans are when a whale gets struck by a boat or entangled in fishing gear. Neither cause was readily apparent Monday morning, officials told Patch. Tissue sampling results could take months to get back.
“Whales can also succumb to natural causes,” Jennifer Goebel, spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “Whales die all the time in the ocean and we never know.”
The whale was first spotted Sunday about 8 miles east of Marshfield in the middle of Cape Cod Bay. LaCasse estimated the whale has been dead for two or three days.
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Fin whales are the second most commonly seen whales on whale watches in this region, LaCasse said. They can commonly grow to 60-75 feet. It’s also very fast, able to to get up to 20 knots. Some call them the Greyhounds of the ocean, but LaCasse had another description.
“It’s a very different, athletic-looking whale, LaCasse said. “Right whales are like the defensive lineman of whales, humpbacks are like the linebackers … and these guys are like the Rob Gronkowskis of whales.”
Fin whales aren’t among whale species seeing a higher-than-normal mortality rates in this region. In fact, LaCasse said his team couldn’t recall another fin death in this region this year.
“They are not that common [up here,] but they aren’t that rare either,” Goebel reaffirmed. “We’ve see a few pretty much every year since 1992. We’ve had a few wash up along the East Coast.”
This whale will be buried on-site at a seldom-used part of the beach, LaCasse said. It’s a common, accepted practice that would see crews dig a hole some 15-20 feet and 20-25 feet across.
Duxbury Beach gets a relatively high amount of large sea life washing ashore because of being a large barrier island, LaCasse said.
Officials are asking the public to stay clear of the area so town officials and marine biologists can respond.
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Photo courtesy of New England Aquarium