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ADDS THAT THE WHALE IN THE PICTURE IS A HUMPBACK WHALE - This April 24, 2017 photo provided by MERR Institute, Inc. shows a dead humpback whale at Port Mahon, Del. Federal officials said humpback whales have been dying in unusually large numbers along the Atlantic Coast. (Suzanne Thurman/MERR Institute, Inc. via AP)
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Scientists to review large number of humpback whale deaths

ADDS THAT THE WHALE IN THE PICTURE IS A HUMPBACK WHALE - This April 24, 2017 photo provided by MERR Institute, Inc. shows a dead humpback whale at Port Mahon, Del. Federal officials said humpback whales have been dying in unusually large numbers along the Atlantic Coast. (Suzanne Thurman/MERR Institute, Inc. via AP)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Government scientists are launching an investigation into an unusually large number of humpback whale deaths from North Carolina to Maine.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries says 41 whales have been stranded in the region in 2016 and so far in 2017.

Officials say 10 of the 20 whales that have been examined so far were killed by collisions with boats. That’s far above the average of fewer than two per year, and officials say there’s been no spike in boat traffic to explain it.

Humpbacks can grow to 60 feet long. They’re popular with whale watchers because of the dramatic way they breach the ocean’s surface.

Mendy Garron, NOAA’s regional stranding coordinator, says there were also “unusual mortality events” involving humpbacks in 2003, 2005 and 2006.

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