Center for Coastal Studies Works to Protect Right Whales

Right whale #3520, Millipede, photographed in Cape Cod Bay with her 2021 calf by the Center for Coastal Studies Right Whale Aerial Survey team on 3/3/21. CCS, NOAA permit #19315-1

PROVINCETOWN – As North Atlantic right whales arrive in Cape Cod Bay as part of the spring season, the Center for Coastal Studies continues its efforts to protect the critically endangered marine animals. 

Director of the North Atlantic Right Whale Ecology Program Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo said that since 1976, the center has worked to study Cape Cod’s marine ecology and the right whales, which now number less than 370.

He said that an unusual number of the whales make their way to the Cape’s waters every year, with the Bay serving a nursery ground where mother whales often bring their calves. 

Recently, the center’s aerial surveillance team spotted over 70 right whales.

“Here we’ve got one of the rarest large mammals on Earth, and it comes here to Cape Cod waters in the highest concentrations found anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean,” said Dr. Mayo. 

He said that the whales have always been historically prevalent in the bay, but recently concentrations have increased as they arrive to feed and rear their young. 

Calves born off the Florida-Georgia coast often are later found in Cape Cod Bay.

“Cape Cod Bay is, because of the state of Massachusetts, one of the best protected habitats for whales anywhere in the world,” said Mayo.

“Those mothers and calves come here to nurse, and the calves are safe here. Which is lucky, because we’ve already lost three calves this year.”

Vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement are some of the biggest dangers to the marine animal, though overall low birthrates also contribute to their endangered status. 

For the full Sunday Journal interview with Dr. Charles Mayo, click here.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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