Massive Cruise Ship Strikes and Kills Endangered Whale Near Brooklyn

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The sight of a magnificent sei whale is usually reserved for the open, deep waters where these creatures gracefully swim. But on a recent weekend, the New York Harbor bore witness to a tragic encounter between man and nature.

The MSC Meraviglia, a massive cruise ship, arrived at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal with an unexpected and sorrowful passenger — a 44-foot-long, endangered sei whale draped across its bow.

A 44-foot sei whale was found dead on a cruise ship’s bow.
Photo: Pexels
A 44-foot sei whale was found dead on a cruise ship’s bow.

A Grim Discovery

As the MSC Meraviglia approached New York, marine authorities were alerted to the grim discovery. The whale, a mature female weighing approximately 50,000 pounds, was found pinned to the front of the ship, reported The New York Times.

Immediate notification to authorities followed, and a team was quickly assembled to address the situation.

MSC Cruises, the Geneva-based company that owns the Meraviglia, expressed deep regret over the incident, according to The Washington Post. In a statement, they assured that the company has comprehensive measures in place to avoid such collisions, including training deck officers and adjusting itineraries to steer clear of regions populated by whales.

Sei whales are typically found in deep, subtropical waters.
Photo: Pexels
Sei whales are typically found in deep, subtropical waters.

Investigating the Cause of Death

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) took charge of the investigation. The whale was towed to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, for a necropsy, reported CBS News. Initial findings revealed broken bones in the right flipper and tissue trauma in the shoulder blade, suggesting a collision with the ship likely caused the whale’s death.

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Biologists collected tissue and bone samples for further analysis, aiming to determine whether the whale was already dead when struck by the vessel. However, as noted by the New York Post, early indications pointed towards the ship strike as the cause of death, with the whale showing signs of having been in good health prior to the incident.

Vessel strikes are a major threat to sei whale survival.
Photo: Pexels
Vessel strikes are a major threat to sei whale survival.

The Plight of the Sei Whale

Sei whales, named after the Norwegian word for pollock (“seje”), are typically found in deep, subtropical, temperate, and subpolar waters, reports The New York Times. These sleek giants can grow up to 60 feet long and live up to 70 years. Historically, their populations were decimated by commercial whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, leading to their current status as an endangered species.

The sei whale’s diet consists of fish and plankton, consuming up to 2,000 pounds daily. According to The Washington Post this feeding habit often brings them to the surface, making them vulnerable to ship strikes. NOAA estimates that around 6,300 sei whales inhabit waters between Florida and Nova Scotia, but precise numbers remain elusive due to their deep-water preferences.

Environmental groups advocate for tighter shipping regulations.
Photo: Pexels
Environmental groups advocate for tighter shipping regulations.

Preventing Future Tragedies

The collision has sparked a federal investigation and renewed calls for stricter regulations to protect marine life. Experts like Andy Rogan from Ocean Alliance emphasized the immense impact a ship strike can have on a whale, despite their size.

“Whales are huge animals, but compared to a ship that size, it’s still a massive impact,” Rogan told The Washington Post.

Marine authorities, including NOAA, have urged mariners along the East Coast to slow down and stay vigilant. Recommendations include the use of hydrophones to detect whale acoustics and infrared cameras to spot whales within a 360-degree range around vessels.

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MSC Cruises and other companies in the industry are encouraged to adopt more advanced technologies and procedures to prevent such incidents. According to The New York Times, this includes underwater noise management systems and specially designed hulls and propellers to minimize the risk of collisions.

Conservation advocates are calling for safer maritime practices.
Photo: Pexels
Conservation advocates are calling for safer maritime practices.

Call to Action

Environmental groups continue to advocate for tighter regulations on commercial shipping and fishing to safeguard vulnerable marine species. Recent incidents involving North Atlantic right whales further underscore the urgency of these measures. Proposals in Massachusetts, for instance, aim to impose speed limits on fast ferries to protect whales, noted CBS News, though these face opposition from ferry companies.

The public is also encouraged to report sightings of dead, injured, or entangled whales to authorities, helping to build a comprehensive database to inform conservation efforts.

In the wake of this tragic incident, the message is clear: Human activity must coexist more harmoniously with marine life. The death of this majestic sei whale serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between our pursuits and the natural world we share.

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