Boaters Urged to Use Caution as Right Whales Enter Cape Cod Bay

North Atlantic Right Whale mother and her calf, courtesy of New England Aquarium

PROVINCETOWN – The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that their aerial survey teams spotted four pairs of North Atlantic right whale mothers and their calves in Cape Cod Bay.

The sighting of the right whale mother Tripelago and her calf on March 15 marked the season’s first sighting of the critically endangered species as they return from their birthing waters in the Southeastern United States.

That was followed soon after by the sighting of right whale mothers Slalom, Mantis, and Silt and their calves on March 25.

All boaters are being urged to observe protections set forth under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibit boats and aircraft from approaching within 500 feet of the whales or face legal penalization.

Additionally, vessel speeds in Cape Cod waters are restricted to 10 knots or less for the duration of the whales migratory season from March 1 to April 30, a date which may be extended if sightings continue in the area.

“These animals are coming here after a long and perilous journey through areas not as strictly protected as Cape Cod Bay,” said Dr. Charles Mayo, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies Right Whale Ecology Program.

“The bay can be seen as a nursery for Right Whale mothers who are nursing their calves and they will probably be around for a little while.”

“Mariners should be well aware that the state regulation for all boats is 10 knots or less. They need to be alert and keep watch for these animals, they can be very hard to spot.”
Due to their dwindling numbers the safety of right whale calves is essential to the survival of their species.

The number one threat to right whales and their calves is collisions with marine vessels and entanglement in fishing lines.

“These whale calves in Cape Cod Bay aren’t as powerful swimmers as their adult counterparts,” said Mayo. “They stay close to their mothers and nurse a lot, which makes them very vulnerable.”

So far this year 15 right whale calves have been identified in the Southeastern U.S. Of the 18 spotted last year, one was killed in a marine vessel strike.

It is estimated that only 336 North Atlantic right whales remain.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter 

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