March 1st, 2017 (Matt Kubisiak). CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, Va. – A dead whale was found washed ashore Saturday on the Virginia end of Assateague Island, officials with the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge confirmed.
Dr. Alexander Costidis, stranding response coordinator with the Virginia Aquarium, says this is the fifth whale so far this year that has washed up dead on Virginia shores, the most that have washed up in one year since 1990. Three of the dead whales found this year were confirmed to have been struck by vessels.
It is unclear at this point how the humpback whale found Saturday died, officials said. The decomposition of the carcass suggests the whale died long before washing up.
According to Dr. Costidis, a whale carcass was spotted offshore of Assateague Island last week near the Maryland/Virginia border. It is possible that this is the same whale that was found Saturday.
As alarming as it is to see whales washing ashore in such numbers, Dr. Costidis says it may be related to the increasing population of humpback whales that travel through our waters. The International Union for Conservation of Nature assesses the humpback whale population as being of “Least Concern,” upgrading the population’s status from “Vulnerable” in 2008.
Of the five whales that washed ashore in Virginia so far this year, three were found on the Delmarva Peninsula. The first was found near the Cherrystone Campground near Cape Charles, another at Butler’s Bluff near Kiptopeke State Park, and this most recent one on Assateague Island.