SILVER SPRINGS, Md. — Following the death of a 43-foot whale that washed up in Toms River, the NOAA declared an "unusual mortality rate" among humpback whales on the east coast.

Mendy Garron, stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, said there have been 41 dead whales along the east coast from Maine to North Carolina between January 2016 and yesterday's discovery of a sei whale on Chadwick Beach in Toms River.

"Twenty of these whales have been examined and 10 of them have evidence of vessel interaction. Whales tested to date have had no evidence of infectious disease but have had low levels of biotoxin exposure, which can be a typical finding for a large whale species and is not considered unusual."

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center said the nearly 50-ton whale in Toms River was first spotted by a cruise ship off New York and had been dead for several days. Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of the MMSC, said his staff had to work with limited resources on a narrow stretch of beach with very little time because of the tide and could not determine a cause of death.

Garron said there has been no spike in boat traffic to explain it and no explanation for the increase in boat strikes.

There are between 10,400 and 10,700 humpback whales in the Greater Atlantic region between Maine and Virginia and they are no longer considered endangered.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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