Endangered Whales Remain In Regional Waters Beyond Expiry Of Current Seasonal Protections

Right whale “Magic” catalog #1243) seen here surfacing while swimming in fishing lanes south of Cape Cod. Photo credit: New England Aquarium, taken under NMFS permit #25739

OAK BLUFFS – A recent aerial survey by researchers with the New England Aquarium spotted a pair of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and 25 endangered sei whales in unprotected waters 40 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Although both species tend to migrate to their primary seasonal feeding areas in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, the sightings are a reminder that some whales may remain in nearby waters where they are at risk of collision with marine vessels, especially with seasonal protections in Massachusetts being lifted in May.

The sighting comes just days after a cruise ship arrived in New York Harbor with a dead sei whale on its bow.

“While right whales may have left Cape Cod Bay, these sightings serve as an important reminder that not all right whales migrate north in the summertime,” said Katherine McKenna, an assistant research scientist in the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center and one of the participants aboard the flight.

“In fact,” she said, “the three feeding right whales we spotted in May have never been documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where about 40 percent of the species goes to feed each summer.”

Scientists and conservationists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have proposed modifications to the existing speed rule that would extend its expiration date and that experts say would reduce the risk of lethal vessel strikes for right, humpback, fin, and sei whales.

To view the proposal, click here.

About Matthew Tomlinson

Matt Tomlinson is a Cape Cod native studying to be a documentarian. He has been with the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since 2021.

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