Last week the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) issued a high risk advisory to mariners to be on the look out for feeding right whales. At the time of the first release, approximately 60 endangered right whales had been spotted feeding in the bay. The highest concentration of whales was in the western part of the bay.
Monday, DMF issued a follow up advisory--the whales are still here, they are still feeding and there are more of them.
More than 75 right whales have been spotted recently in the southern and western portions of the bay close to the shore. The highest risk is in the area along the shore from Plymouth to Barnstable. Whales have also recently been spotted off Race Point Beach in Provincetown.
According to DMF, the presence of this many whales feeding in the bay during the first week of May is not typical. With a total population of approximately 550, right whales are the most endangered large whale in the North Atlantic.
Mariners are reminded to post a lookout onboard and reduce speeds to 10 knots. Vessels 65 feet or longer are prohibited by federal law to exceed 10 knots, but whales are still at risk for being struck by smaller vessels. The number of vessels on the bay is also expected to increase with more recreational boaters and whale watch boats. State and federal law also prohibits boaters from approaching within 500 yards of a right whale. Both the United States Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Environmental Police are authorized to enforce this rule.
The whales have remainded in the area longer than expected to feed on an abundance of zooplankton.
Advisories are available on the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional website here and are also broadcast over NOAA weather radio here. With data obtained from aerial surveys of Cape Cod Bay, right whale sightings are documented and searchable by date and area here.
See the original advisory from last Thursday here.