Beached whale dies at Rockaway Beach after attempted rescue

Photo by Blythe Worster

A 30-foot beached sperm whale died on the shoreline around Beach 73rd Street at Rockaway Beach early Tuesday morning, Dec. 13, despite nearby surfers and construction workers attempting to save it, according to the city’s Parks Department.

According to the New York Post, the baby whale reportedly washed up on shore when workers building a seawall nearby noticed the whale was alive and flailing.

The local construction company alerted the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) around 7:30 a.m. of the sperm whale in the surf. USACE coordinated with NYC Parks to alert the proper authorities to provide services for the animal. After contacting the Parks Department, the NYPD and the Department of Environmental Conservation, the surfers and workers attempted to push the animal toward the sea.

Photo by Blythe Worster

The Parks Department confirmed with QNS that despite the rescue attempts, the whale died on the shoreline around 9 a.m.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the whale to be a 32-foot female.

“Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS) is taking basic biological data today, and plans to conduct a full necropsy tomorrow,” according to a statement from the NOAA.

The NOAA said two other sperm whales recently stranded in New York — one calf in Southampton on Oct. 21 and another calf on Dec. 5 on Gilgo Beach.

A spokesperson from NOAA reminded the public that dolphins, porpoises and whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes touching, feeding or otherwise coming into contact with these animals illegal.

“The best way to assist these animals and keep them and yourself safe is by calling trained responders and maintaining a 150-foot distance,” said the NOAA spokesperson. “Never attempt to return a large whale or other marine mammal back to the water without guided support from trained responders. Additionally, sperm whales are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.”

In New York, report all stranded marine mammals and sea turtles to the NY Stranding Hotline: 631-369-9829. For all other states in the northeast, call NOAA’s marine mammal and sea turtle stranding hotline (866-755-6622) to be directed to a trained responder.

This is a developing story and will be updated when more information becomes available.