Over a Dozen Right Whales Spotted Off Nantucket

A group of male right whales surfacing together between feeding dives.
CREDIT: New England Aquarium, taken under NMFS Permit #19674

NANTUCKET – More than a dozen North Atlantic right whales were spotted by the New England Aquarium aerial survey team off the coast of Nantucket recently.

Aquarium officials said that they sighted 15 unique whales about 20 miles south of the island during surveys conducted between October 1 and 3.

“In addition to feeding, we saw several right whales making body contact with each other using their flippers, heads, and even rolling at the surface—indicating that these whales were socializing as well,” said research assistant at the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life Katherine McKenna in a statement.

“We also observed several humpback whales feeding near the right whales, which highlights the importance and productivity of the southern New England habitat.”

According to aquarium experts, the waters off of Nantucket are a frequent stop for the marine animals.

“We often see right whales feeding over the Nantucket Shoals, and we saw evidence of this on both of our surveys last week,” said Associate Scientist Orla O’Brien. 

“Although we are not sure specifically what prey species they are targeting in this area, it is a good sign as right whales have had to adapt to the changing distribution of their prey in the last decade.”

As waters continue to warm due to climate change, many ocean species have adjusted their usual habitats northward to stay in comfortable temperature water, according to experts.

O’Brien added that the right whales are likely traveling south to their calving grounds, but many may stay in the southern New England region to feed more before the journey.

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 CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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