Cruise Ship Likely Killed Endangered Whale Before Dragging Carcass To New York

Photo: Cliff Hawkins (Getty Images)

A 1,036-foot-long cruise ship sailed into New York Harbor last Saturday with a dead endangered whale pinned to the ship’s bow. While a cause of death hasn’t been officially determined, investigators’ initial findings point toward a ship strike killing the 44-foot-long sei whale. Yet another incident to encourage sea creatures to attack pleasure crafts. 

The MSC Meraviglia was returning to the Big Apple after a cruise to Bermuda. One wonders how could the ship’s crew not realize that they were dragging a massive whale, however while the Sei whales can weigh up to 50 tons, the Meraviglia weighs over 171,000 tons. It’s no contest. NOAA is examining the whale’s carcass to determine if the whale was dead before it ended up on the bow or killed by it. The New York Times reports:

“The investigation is continuing, but preliminary results — broken bones in the whale’s right flipper; tissue trauma along its right shoulder blade; a full stomach and decent layer of blubber — all pointed toward the animal having been in otherwise good health when it was likely struck and killed by the ship, said Robert A. DiGiovanni, the chief scientist of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, which is leading the investigation.”

Sei whales are an endangered species with an estimated population of at most 80,000. NOAA estimates that commercial whaling operations killed 300,000 sei whales for their meat and oil during the 19th and 20th centuries. Since whaling has been completely outlawed in the 1980s, ship strikes have been the most significant threat to whales. MSC Cruises told USA Today:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of any marine life. We have comprehensive measures in place to help avoid collisions, such as training all our deck officers with the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) and we follow regulations designed to protect whales and other marine life. This includes altering itineraries in certain regions to avoid whales and we will continue to evaluate and update our procedures with our partners and the authorities.”

According to the International Whaling Commission, large vessels striking whales often go unnoticed and unreported as a result. The change in mortality rate caused by ship strikes is significant enough to be the difference between a species’ extinction and survival.

Massacring marine wildlife makes it even more difficult to stomach the notion of spending a vacation on a cruise ship. This is on top of cruise lines covering up sexual assault, having ships burst into flames and pumping out carbon dioxide on a scale comparable to a small industrialized nation.

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