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Source: News 12 Long Island

Vigil held for stranded whale that was euthanized

Posted: November 29, 2016
Originally Published: November 27, 2016

Nearly 200 Long Islanders gathered along the East Moriches shoreline Sunday for a vigil in honor of the whale that became stranded last week and was later euthanized.

The 25-foot humpback was euthanized on Wednesday after it became stuck on a sandbar in Moriches Bay for several days.

The situation was heartbreaking for many who lived in the community and others who followed the sad tale in the news.

"His cries at night were awful. During the day, at night, he'd just moan," says one resident.

Some blame the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency for what they say was a delayed response that hampered rescue efforts.

The Riverhead Foundation went to the scene to help, but could do nothing for the whale. And a group calling themselves Whale Team Six even tried a grassroots effort to lure the whale back to deeper waters, but members say they were stopped by authorities because it's illegal to touch the federally protected whale.

"I pulled my boat right up to the sandbar and my helper jumped out to throw water on, but the DEC and NOAA said they were going to arrest me. I wish I would have just stayed there and kept doing it," one vigil attendee said.

Attendees say Sunday's vigil was not only to mourn the whale's death but also to call for change when it comes to dealing with stranded whales. Some outraged residents have started a petition calling for officials to come up with a solution so that similar situations don't happen in the future.

"The law was designed 50, 60 years ago to protect [whales] from people harassing and hunting them down -- it shouldn't be from saving them," said one man.

"We believe there should be a whale rescue task force created -- bring in the specialist, figure out what is the action plan that can occur quickly," says Adrienne Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

News 12 reached out to NOAA and the Riverhead Foundation for comment, but has not yet heard back.