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An unusually large number of humpback whales died last year

( CNN) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration( NOAA) launched an investigation Thursday into a large number of humpback whale deaths per Maine to North Carolina.

The agency said the deaths an unusual mortality event, the first one observed in humpback whales in almost a decade. An unusual mortality event( UME) is defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as “a stranding the hell is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and challenges immediate response.”

The last-place unusual mortality event said for humpback whales was in 2006. Two other events were proclaimed in 2005 and 2003, said Deborah Fauquier, veterinary medical officer for NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Assets. The induce of those UMEs was undetermined.

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