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Sixth dead humpback whale in Delaware amid spike in deaths

Marine researchers are trying to determine why some dead humpback whales have washed up on Delaware shores.

The latest whale found was a female juvenile. It washed ashore at Cape Henlopen State Park on Sunday. The dead humpback was more than 36 feet long. Suzanne Thurman, executive director of the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) said a collision with a large ship appears to be the cause of death.

It’s the sixth humpback whale to wash up on a Delaware beach in the past two years. A total of 85 have been found dead between Florida and Maine - which the federal government has declared an unusual mortality event.

Thurman said they’ve been examining the bodies to try to determine if there’s an underlying illness connecting the deaths.

“And it’s not all of a sudden all of these whales are getting hit by boats, that’s not reasonable to think that," she said. "They are getting hit by ships, but it’s reasonable to think there could be underlying circumstances.”

But Thurman said the decomposition of the bodies has made it difficult to get good testing samples. But the information they find could help save these animals.

“All of our data has that potential to be used to prevent other deaths, future deaths, to help with regulations, for activities in the ocean,” she said.

She said it will take several weeks for test results on this whale to come back.

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