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Rescuers Say There's No More They Can Do to Save Beached Whale

By Paul DeBenedetto | December 26, 2012 12:13pm | Updated on December 26, 2012 3:30pm

BREEZY POINT — A beached whale that was discovered in the Rockaways Wednesday morning, sending rescuers on a desperate race to try to save the massive animal, is likely to die, officials said.

The whale was found on the sand near Beach 216th Street and Palmer Drive in Breezy Point shortly after 10:40 a.m., when police received a call about the 60-foot animal, the NYPD and rescuers said.

Officers from the NYPD Emergency Services Unit were joined by harbor police and firefighters, who began spraying the animal with hoses, an NYPD spokeswoman said.

Officials for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, who work as surveyors for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, arrived on scene about 2:30 p.m. to find the whale emaciated and bleeding with its vital signs slowing.

It did not appear likely to survive, a NOAA spokeswoman said.

"Given the size of the animal and the apparent condition, it's not looking good," said Allison McHale, the spokeswoman. "It's basically laying there."

Riverhead officials are no longer making efforts to save the whale, and are developing a plan to assist in the animal's death, McHale said.

The plan is expected take as long as 24 hours, in which time the tide could take the whale out to sea, though the animal's size would likely prevent that from happening, McHale said.

On Thursday morning, the whale appeared to have drifted off the beach but was still in the bay. It was not immediately clear if it was still alive. 

McHale said the animal had drifted with the tide down the beach but could not confirm its condition.

The whale is an endangered finback, the second largest of all whale species, said Kim Durham, a representative of the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program.

Rob DiGiovanni, a director and senior biologist on scene for the Riverhead Foundation, said that the whale was likely sick for a long time before washing up on shore.

"When you have an animal that is this compromised, this emaciated, that should be 40 or 50 tons," DiGiovanni said, "for this animal to be so emaciated that you could see its rib cage, it is an animal that has been compromised for a very long time."

With reporting by Theodore Parisienne