Investigators are probing an unusually high number of humpback whale deaths since 2016 off the US Atlantic Coast, where many appear to have been killed by colliding with boats, officials said Thursday. A total of 41 humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have died in the waters off Maine to North Carolina, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Twenty-six died last year, far higher than the average annual number of humpback whales for the area — just 14. So far this year, 15 have already washed up dead. “The increased numbers of mortalities have triggered the declaration of an unusual mortality event, or UME, for humpback whales along the Atlantic Coast,” said Mendy Garron, stranding coordinator at the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. READ MORE