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Press Release

Humpback Whale Binary Found on Block Island: Mystic Aquarium Responds

July 1, 2024

Mystic, CT – July 1, 2024 - Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program received a hotline report on June 24 about a 49-foot deceased female humpback whale on Block Island. The Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) identified her as Binary, a 37-year-old whale. The cause of her death is still under investigation.

Binary was first documented by CCS in the late 1980s and has had nine known calves. She was regularly seen in the Gulf of Maine and the West Indies. Her last recorded sighting was in 2022.

Binary’s death is part of an unusual mortality event (UME) affecting the U.S. East Coast since 2016. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines an unusual mortality event (UME) as “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.” Of more than 200 whales included in this UME, about half underwent partial or full necropsy examinations. Out of the roughly 90 whales examined, about 40% showed signs of human interaction, such as ship strikes or entanglement.

We are saddened by each case but grateful for the opportunity to learn more,” said Sarah Callan, the Animal Rescue Program manager. “The ocean environment is changing at an alarming rate. The data we collect from each case is vital in helping us understand more about the health of humpback whales and the ongoing UME.” Whale deaths along the U.S. East Coast are investigated by NOAA and other partners.

Mystic Aquarium staff conducted an external exam and collected tissue samples from Binary. Due to the remote location, a complete necropsy wasn’t possible. Mystic Aquarium has been working with state and community partners on logistics for carcass removal options, but the whale will remain on the beach due to the many challenges posed by the location.

“We remind the public that humpback whales are federally protected. It is illegal to touch or take any part of a deceased whale,” said Callan. “There is also a risk of zoonotic disease transmission, so please keep pets and people at a distance. We appreciate the public's respect in letting Binary rest peacefully.”

For more information, please contact media@mysticaquarium.org