Whales arrive

Right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — The right whale aerial survey team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) observed nine right whales in Cape Cod bay this past weekend, according to a statement released by the group. Individual right whales have been observed in the area since late November, but numbers have increased dramatically in the last week.

The whales congregate in Cape Cod Bay every year to feed on zooplankton blooms there. It’s a designated critical habitat area for them. The global population of right whales is believed to be 526. In the last six years, about half of those have been seen in Cape Cod annually.

With support from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, CCS surveys the bay by air and sea to assure the protection of the animals while they are in the area. They are joined by scientists from several other institutions doing right whale research.

All vessels with a federal research permit fly a distinctive yellow flag with the letters “R/V.” Mariners are asked to steer clear of these vessels whenever possible. It’s illegal to approach a North Atlantic right whale (by air or water) within 1,500 feet without such a permit.

Charles “Stormy” Mayo, director of the Right Whale Ecology Program at CCS, encourages beach walkers to keep an eye on the water. “The upcoming months will offer some terrific opportunities to see these whales from the shores of Cape Cod,” he said. “The right whales often feed very close to shore, offering whale watchers on land an unbeatable view of one of the rarest marine mammals.”


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