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Another whale washes up on shore along the Atlantic coastline


A humpback whale washed up on Long Island's South Shore this week. It's the latest of many on the East Coast. Last month, another humpback showed up on the Assateague Island National Seashore.


Superintendent Hugh Hawthorne oversees the long barrier island on the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia.

HUGH HAWTHORNE: It was a relatively small, probably a juvenile humpback whale.

FADEL: Humpback whales made a comeback in the past few decades, a success story for the global conservation movement.

MENDY GARRON: In 2016, they were removed from the endangered species list.

FADEL: Mendy Garron is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

GARRON: We do see a lot of animals that have scars from entanglement in fishing gear, you know, and some animals do actually have some propeller wounds as well that they've survived.

FADEL: The humpback whale at Assateague had a wound like that.

INSKEEP: Humpbacks can grow up to 60 feet in length, weigh nearly 40 tons and need a lot of food.

GARRON: Humpback whales are what we call prey generalist. So they feed on a variety of different species. So they can feed on krill or other types of small schooling fish.

INSKEEP: A prey generalist. The effects of climate change on currents and water temperatures could make prey harder to find, forcing whales to look for food in shallower waters.

FADEL: Even in deeper waters, Hawthorne says they face danger from ships.

HAWTHORNE: Generally speaking, if a small boat hits a whale, it's going to do a lot more damage to the boat than it does to the whale. Anything large enough to kill a whale is probably a pretty large vessel.

FADEL: Scientists at NOAA are investigating the unusual number of whale deaths.

INSKEEP: Hawthorne says anybody who spots a stranded whale should report it to a trained responder or call 911. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.