Community Meeting on Moriches Bay Whale Planned

humpback whale
Veterinary team from NOAA, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and North Carolina State University assess the stranded humpback whale. (NOAA)

Federal officials scheduled a community meeting for next month in Farmingville to present the results of their analysis on the humpback whale that was stranded and euthanized in Moriches Bay in November.  

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staffers will discuss lessons learned from the incident as well as plans for a collaboration to respond to future marine mammal strandings on Long Island, the agency said this week. The meeting is in response to public outrage sparked by marine biologists euthanizing the 29-foot long, 15-ton female whale when experts determined it was in too poor health to be saved four days after it got stranded on a sand bar. The public named the whale “Morey,” after the bay.

The announcement of the meeting comes after more than 3,000 people signed a petition calling on officials to come up with a plan for future strandings.

The Moriches Bay whale was at least the third whale to have died in waters off Long Island last year. Two washed up last spring and about a half dozen did the same in 2015.

The nonprofit Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which had been monitoring the whale since it was initially spotted in the bay, unsuccessfully tried to free it. Members of the public offered to help, but were turned away by law enforcement since touching a federally protected species is against the law. NOAA officials said that if it were freed, it would likely become stranded again, if it weren’t injured in the process.

After it was put down, the whale was taken to Cupsogue Beach County Park, where experts performed a necropsy to determine why it became stranded. The results of that necropsy will be discussed at the meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville. The meeting is free, open to the public and will include an opportunity to ask questions.

Humpback whales can grow up to 60-feet long, weigh 25-to-40 tons, and live 50 years, according to NOAA. They are threatened by getting entangled in fishing gear, struck by ships, harassed by whale-watching boats, detrimental changes to their habitat, and illegal hunting. These whales were removed from the endangered species list last year.

The Riverhead Foundation urges anyone who finds marine wildlife stranded on the beach to call its hotline at 631-369-9829.

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