First North Atlantic Right Whale Spotted In Region As Seasonal Survey Begins

North Atlantic Right Whale, Courtesy of Center for Coastal Studies NOAA Permit 25740

PROVINCETOWN – The Center for Coastal Studies recently reported that field researchers spotted a North Atlantic Right Whale, the first such sighting of the season.

The Center recently began its 2021 to 2022 survey of right whale populations, partnering with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to catalogue whale movement in Cape Cod Bay, where whales arrive in the winter and spring to consume large blooms of microscopic zooplankton.

The sighting was made by associate scientist Christy Hudak and aerial observer Ryan Schosberg, who sighted the whale as it came across Wellfleet and later identified it as the 2019 calf of EGNO 3317, a whale often spotted during last year’s season.

“We know right whales are here in most years in December, but we got very lucky to see one already skim-feeding this time of year,” said Hudak. “When they arrive in the fall and winter months, they tend to be much more cryptic, with long dive times.”

Scientists will pay close attention to the females of breeding age, as the once plentiful North Atlantic Right Whales see dwindling numbers.

Last year, 224 whales were identified by the Center, comprising over two thirds of the total existing population.

“It’s rare to see mom/calf pairs in the northern waters until sometime in March,” said Schosberg, “but it doesn’t stop us from anxiously awaiting their arrival.”

The Center is advising the public to keep distance from the whales while traveling by sea or air, as mandated by state law.

Boaters are advised to abide by seasonal speed limits in Cape Cod Bay requiring large vessels to travel 10 knots or less and smaller vessels to do the same during peak season.


By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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