Boaters warned to stay away from whales after sightings off the Massachusetts coast, Boston
Massachusetts Environmental Police, the Plymouth Harbormaster and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement have increased patrols in the area to ensure boaters are keeping a safe distance from whales if any are spotted
BOSTON - In July, a video of a humpback whale crashing onto a boat in Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts went viral, and now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are warning boaters to be aware of their surroundings and to keep their distance if a whale is spotted.
No injuries were reported to anyone on the 19-foot vessel after the whale came crashing down on top of it, but the boat was heavily damaged.
That sighting prompted the harbormaster in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to remind boaters to stay at least 100 yards away to minimize potential interactions with whales.
"This interaction, while rare, is a reminder that these interactions can be dangerous for both boaters and whales," officials with the town of Plymouth said in a Facebook post.
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Most recently, two people were out fishing when they spotted a humpback whale breaching the surface of Boston Harbor.
"I started filming (and) the next thing you know, he was jumping straight out of the water," Joe Fabiano said.
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After the increase in whale sightings off the coast of Massachusetts, NOAA began to remind boaters about the potential dangers of interacting with sea life while on the water.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police, the Plymouth Harbormaster and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement have increased patrols in the area to ensure boaters are keeping a safe distance from whales if any are spotted, according to NOAA.
NOAA also provided links to information for boaters about how to spot whales before it's too late and what to do if one is encountered while enjoying a day on a boat.
"Seeing a whale while out at sea is an exciting experience, but it can also result in accidental collisions that are harmful for both the boater and the whale," seeaspout.org said on its website.
According to Seeaspout, boaters should slow down and post a lookout if a spout, tail or breaching whale is spotted.
"If you've seen one whale, many more could be close," the website said. "Proceed cautiously."
It's also important to always sail parallel to the whale's course and don't approach it head-on or cut off the whale's path.
And if you see a lot of bubbles at the surface of the water, watch out. Humpback whales sometimes blow bubbles when they're feeding to confuse schools of fish that may be nearby.
So, if you see bubbles at the surface, then a whale may be just below it.
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Welcome back, whales
It's not only New England that has seen an increase in whale sightings.
The body of a humpback whale was found close to the New Jersey shore last month, which prompted a response from local and state officials to remove it.
And one study suggests that humpback whales that are spotted in the Northeast in the waters from the New Jersey Shore to New York end up lingering for an extended period of time and return year after year.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, found that nearly 60% of whales spotted between Long Island and the New Jersey Coast were spotted more than once, either during the same year or between years, and the average length of stay was approximately 40 days.
Researchers used data from whale sightings between 2011 and 2018 to analyze the whale population. They found that many of the whales spotted in the waters off New York and New Jersey belong to the whales included in the Gulf of Maine feeding population.
The research suggested that most of the whales were young and usually returned to feeding grounds further north, where their mothers would take them before weaning. The study also indicated that they return to the waters off the mid-Atlantic coast to feed on Atlantic menhaden, which has seen an increase in its population over the last ten years.
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TMX contributed to this story