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More Whales Getting Hit by Ships Along East Coast

May 24, 2014 10:42 AM EDT

Whales need beware, because according to a recent NOAA report ships along the East Coast are hitting more of the large mammals.

There were three whale strikes recently in Northeastern waters, including one in which a cruise ship hit a sei whale and didn't realize they were dragging the poor animal along until they reached port, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

In another instance, a sei whale was found dead and attached to a container ship that was docking near Philadelphia, the NOAA said.

The agency believes an increase in food supply is driving these large beasts closer to shore. A large amount of the eel-fish called sand lance has brought an influx of humpback whales to the Boston Harbor area this month.

The NOAA warns boaters and ships to abide by whale protection measures already in place, such as reducing speed and keeping distance.

"Nobody wants to hit a whale," said NOAA spokeswoman Marjorie Mooney-Seus. "So we want people to have a greater awareness that they're out there now."

Usually there is just one whale strike every few weeks - compared to three in recent weeks - but the NOAA said it counted 28 whale strikes in Northeastern waters between 2006 and 2010. Worldwide, a National Marine Fisheries Service survey conducted from 1975-2002 found 292 records of confirmed or possible ship strikes to large whales, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Rob DiGiovanni, who heads a marine mammal rescue group on Long Island, said he's seeing "more evidence of ship strikes and that's definitely a concern."

In the New York cruise ship incident a necropsy report revealed that the whale was indeed killed by the blunt force of the ship.

So far, the NOAA says that no whale run-ins have involved the endangered North Atlantic right whales.

DiGiovanni said, via the AP, his rescue team hopes to study whether the increase in such accidents are occurring because there are more whales, more ships or a change in a food source, as suggested by NOAA.

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