Mariners Cautioned After Large Group of Right Whales Spotted in Cape Cod Bay

Three North Atlantic right whales in Cape Cod Bay.
CREDIT: Brigid McKenna/Center for Coastal Studies, under NOAA research permit #19315-01

HYANNIS – Massachusetts is asking mariners traveling through Cape Cod Bay to use extreme caution after several North Atlantic right whales were spotted feeding in the area. 

The Center for Coastal Studies sighted the group of 27 right whales in the lower and eastern parts of the bay on January 18 feeding near the surface of the water.

The state’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) put out an advisory to mariners because of the risk of vessel collisions with the critically-endangered whales. 

The message adds that the whales typically switch over to feeding towards the seafloor, however the zooplankton that the creatures feed on is at high concentrations at the surface this week. 

The warning also states that a large aggregation of whales feeding at the surface is not usually observed in the winter months and is generally more common in the spring. 

“The number of individuals already identified is pretty typical for this time of year, however, what is atypical is their behavior. We’re seeing shallow sub-surface and skim feeding whales which brings them closer to the surface and increases risks to mariners,” said Center for Coastal Studies Flight Coordinator Amy James.

Mariners in the area are being advised to proceed with caution, limit speed to less than 10 knots, and to post lookouts to reduce the chances of colliding with the whales. 

The law requires vessels over 65 feet in length cannot go over 10 knots in the bay from January 1 to May 15 every year. 

This month a right whale was spotted with a severe entanglement off the coast of North Carolina. NOAA officials said the creature would most likely die from its wounds. 

The vanishing whale species have been at the center of a push for stronger regulations of lobster fishing, since the creatures are vulnerable to entanglements in fishing gear.

Maine lawmakers were able to amend a recent government spending bill to delay any new restrictions on the industry for the next six years. 

The state recently deemed April 24 as Right Whale Day

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.
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