Early Sunday (Oct. 7), a 50-foot fin whale was spotted belly-up in Boston Harbor. Biologists are still investigating the cause of death, but some scientists on the scene said they saw a lot of bruising and pressure lines on the whale's body, according to WCBV-TV.
Such markings could indicate the whale got tangled or wrapped in something, which might not come as a surprise. A report out this month found that humans might be to blame for most large whale deaths over the past 40 years in the northwest Atlantic Ocean, with entanglement in fishing gear the No. 1 killer.
The study looked at 1,762 known deaths and likely fatal injuries from 1970 to 2009 among eight species of big whales in the region, including the endangered fin whales, which reach up to 90 feet (27 meters) in length, making them the second-largest living mammals after blue whales. A cause of death had been determined in 750 of the cases (around 42 percent), and of those, nearly 67 percent of the fatalities were human related.
Getting ensnared in fishing gear was the leading cause of death across all species, killing 323 whales, while vessel strikes took the lives of 171 more. Meanwhile, 248 whales died of causes not directly related to humans, such as an infection, stranding or natural causes, the researchers said.
Since 2003, there has been a rise in efforts to cut down on accidents involving whales, such as a 2008 U.S. legislation known as the Ship Strike Rule, which introduced restrictions on certain routes and speeds, aiming to reduce the number of vessel strikes on right whales. However, the researchers noted that they saw no significant change in vessel-strike fatalities in light of these reforms.
"So far, regulatory efforts have not reduced the lethal effects of human activities to large whales on a population-range basis, although we do not exclude the possibility of success of targeted measures for specific local habitats that were not within the resolution of our analyses," the authors wrote.
Their study, led by Julie van der Hoop of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, was published online Oct. 1 in the journal Conservation Biology.
- In Photos: Tracking Humpback Whales
- Marine Marvels: Spectacular Photos of Sea Creatures
- Animal Sex Quiz
Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Also on HuffPost:
A humpback whale tail breaches off Sydney Heads at the beginning of whale watching season during a Manly Whale Watching tour on June 23, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
A humpback whale emerges from the surface of the Pacific Ocean at the Uramba Bahia Malaga natural park in Colombia, on July 22, 2011. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on September 23, 2011, an aquarium employee swims with a whale shark in an aquarium tank in the city of Yantai, northeastern Shandong province.
A humpback whale is seen breaching outside of Sydney Heads at the beginning of whale watching season during a Manly Whale Watching tour on June 23, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.
In this photo taken July 21, 2011, a baby gray whale is seen with its mother in the Klamath River in Klamath, Calif.
Female orca Wikie swims with her calf born by artificial insemination on April 19, 2011 at Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France.
An 8.5 metre-long juvenile humpback whale remains stranded on Anaconda beach in La Paloma, department of Rocha, in southeastern Uruguay, on January 27, 2011. AFP
A humpback whale is seen breaching outside of Sydney Heads at the beginning of whale watching season during a Manly Whale Watching tour on June 23, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
The tail of a humpback whale emerges from the surface of the Pacific Ocean at the Uramba Bahia Malaga natural park in Colombia, on July 22, 2011. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
Watch As Whale Jumps Out Of Water And Bumps Canoe
A couple canoeing in Maui film the moment when a breaching whale his their canoe while paddling out in the ocean.