MSC Cruises Ship Brings Deceased Whale Into New York

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MSC Cruises’ MSC Meraviglia sadly arrived in New York with a deceased whale trapped on its bow bulb on Saturday, May 4, following a 6-night cruise to Bermuda. It is unknown whether the ship impacted and killed the whale, or simply contacted the already deceased animal and unfortunately toted it along.

The whale has been identified as a mature female sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), the third-largest type of baleen whale in the world. This particular whale measured 44 feet long, though full-grown sei whales can reach 56-64 feet in length. The species is listed as officially endangered.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sei whales can reach speeds over 34 miles per hour – faster than MSC Meraviglia‘s top cruising speed of 26 mph.

Whale Near New York
Whale near New York (Photo Credit: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society)

“We immediately notified the relevant authorities, who are now conducting an examination of the whale,” cruise line officials stated. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of any marine life.”

The dead whale was towed from the Port of Brooklyn to Sandy Hook, New Jersey – just across Raritan Bay. There the cetacean was examined and a necropsy performed to help determine the cause of death and whether the cruise ship contributed to the animal’s demise.

Preliminary study from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society showed tissue trama along the whale’s right shoulder blade and a right flipper fracture, as well as relatively fresh food in its stomach. This may indicate the whale was feeding at its time of death.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is also investigating the incident in relation to the whale’s death and whether MSC Cruises is at fault.

“All dolphins, porpoises, and whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes touching, feeding, or otherwise harming these animals illegal,” the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society noted.

To be clear, it is not yet confirmed whether or not the cruise ship caused the whale’s death, or if the vessel simply impacted the body in such a way as to snag it and carry it along.

Toxicological tests will be performed on samples of the whale’s organs to determine if any pollution or contaminants are present, which will help further research on the species and what impacts its health.

The 171,598-gross-ton ship has already departed on her next voyage, an 8-night Canada and New England sailing with port visits to Newport, Boston, Portland, Saint John, and Halifax. MSC Meraviglia can welcome 4,428 travelers at double occupancy, or up to 5,642 guests when fully booked with all berths filled.

Cruise Lines Do Follow Protections for Marine Life

All cruise lines do take a variety of precautions to protect marine life, including whales. This includes following all established environmental protocols to minimize marine pollution that could contaminate critical habitats, as well as noise reduction protocols in sensitive areas.

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Ship
MSC Meraviglia Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Karolis Kavolelis / Shutterstock)

In certain sailing regions or at certain times of year, particularly close to shore where whales are known to breed or migrate, sailing speeds are dramatically reduced to permit whales plenty of time to move out of the way of approaching vessels. Slower speeds also ensure better maneuverability for larger vessels to avoid coming to close to 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,” MSC Cruises said.

Read Also: MSC Cruises Works to Reduce Chance of Ships Hitting Whales

When protective measures are in place, cruise lines may adjust itineraries to ensure compliance with slower speed requirements. At times, ports of call may be cancelled if sailing speed will not permit a suitable visit.

It should be noted that sei whales are found worldwide, but usually prefer deeper waters further from coastlines. At this time, there is no way to determine where the whale died or how far it may have been moved by the cruise ship before arriving in New York.

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