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Long Island Scientists Investigate Humpback Whale Die-Offs

Eric Risberg

Scientists are looking for new solutions to combat the die-off of humpback whales along Long Island coasts.

Dozens of humpback whales are being found dead up and down the East Coast. Between 2016 and 2019, 103 have died. New York State has seen the most deaths, with 20 during that time.

The top killers of humpbacks are collisions with commercial ships and recreational boats and entanglement in fishing nets and other objects.

“It’s not just big vessels, it’s also the recreational vessels that are out there. Just being aware that there’s something out there, you should be alert that these animals are out there because you don’t want to encounter them in an adverse way because it’s not beneficial for the animal, and it’s not beneficial for you or your vessel,” said Robert DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist at the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in Hampton Bays.

DiGiovanni and his team are using smart buoys with sensors to help track the paths of humpbacks and other kinds of whales in Long Island’s waters.