It might sound like a good thing that the number of whale sightings have increased around New York City and northern New Jersey, but it’s actually a huge safety concern for both the animals and humans.
The result of warmer and cleaner waters in the area, the population of Atlantic menhaden, humpback whales’ major food source, has grown and is now attracting the marine mammal. Gotham Whale reported that whales sightings have rocketed, from five in 2011 to 272 in 2018, with many sightings occurring less than two miles from the shore.
The problem is, NYC and northern New Jersey are busy maritime zones and more whales means that the risk of dangerous interactions between them and humans has risen.
“I’ve spotted whales with hooks and lines wrapped around them as well as scars from vessel collisions,” said Danielle Brown, a doctoral student in ecology and evolution at Rutgers, and lead humpback whale researcher for Gotham Whale. “It is important for [boats] to be aware of the guidelines for watching them safely,” Brown said.
She advised that boats should move parallel to them and never cut them off from the direction they are moving, as well as to never chase them. The National Marine Fisheries Service recommends a distance of at least 100 yards from the animal.
So, next time you’re around the Statue of Liberty, George Washington Bridge, Raritan Bay, or Arthur Kill strait, keep your eyes peeled for whales — they are around.