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Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team Responds to Stranded Whale in South Kingstown

March 6, 2024

South Kingstown, RI [March 1st, 2024] – The Animal Rescue team at Mystic Aquarium, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM), responded to a confirmed stranding of an approximately 42-foot, 25,000-pound fin whale yesterday morning in Potter Pond, South Kingstown, RI. The whale was initially spotted by a local resident who called the hotline at 6:30 AM on Thursday morning. Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team and veterinarians quickly responded to the call.

Upon arrival, the whale was found to be emaciated and in a compromised state. After a thorough evaluation by Mystic Aquarium’s veterinary team, the whale did not seem to have any apparent or obvious wounds or signs of immediate cause of stranding. After consulting with NOAA and other network partners with expertise in large whales, it was decided to wait for high tide in hopes that the animal would refloat and navigate out of the area. Unfortunately, the whale did not refloat.

With animal welfare as Mystic Aquarium’s top priority and considering the poor condition and low likelihood of survival for the compromised animal, the decision was made to use medical intervention to alleviate the whale's suffering. Mystic Aquarium and RI DEM personnel were with the whale when it passed away around 9:20 PM last night.

Today, the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue team will be working closely with NOAA and other network partners to conduct a necropsy to learn more about the potential causes of this stranding. “Our hearts go out to this magnificent creature, and we remain committed to the conservation and welfare of all marine life,” says Eric Anderson, Senior Director of Animal Health and Welfare.

Through the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coordinates a network of organizations, including Mystic Aquarium, to respond to stranded or beached whales, dolphins, or porpoises in Connecticut and Rhode Island. DEM supports Mystic Aquarium in their rescue endeavors.

“These cases are always heartbreaking, seeing such a beautiful animal in a compromised state. As sad as the outcome is here, I feel some relief that this animal is now at peace. We’ll collect a lot of data today and not only learn more about what happened with this specific whale, but also different threats that this species faces as a whole,” says Sarah Callan, Animal Rescue Program Manager. 

“The nearby homeowners were bringing us coffee yesterday and we were getting emails with prayers for the whale. The community rallied to keep our spirits up, and we’re just really grateful,” says Francesa Battaglia, Animal Rescue Technician.

Mystic Aquarium recently hosted its annual 'Freezin' for a Reason' Arctic Splash this past Sunday, February 25th to raise money for the Animal Rescue Program and its clinic. This year's event saw a record-breaking 201 participants take the icy plunge into Long Island Sound, exceeding the initial fundraising goal of $40,000 and surpassing $100,000 in charitable giving. These funds help support stranding responses, as in the case of this fin whale.

For more information about Mystic Aquarium and its Animal Rescue Program, please visit www.mysticaquarium.org.