New Study Shows Humpback Whale Numbers Increasing In NY Harbor

December 2, 2017

Humpback feeding in NY Harbor.
Credit: Artie Raslich

Humpback whales are not only making a splash along the beaches of Long Island and New Jersey; they have also been sighted inside New York harbor.

A recent study found that humpback whale numbers are increasing inside the New York-New Jersey harbor estuary, which includes New York Harbor, Raritan Bay, and the Hudson and East Rivers.The study, published in Marine Mammal Science, was a collaboration between George Mason University, the Center of Coastal Studies, Gotham Whale,  and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

Researchers found that humpback whale sightings increased from only 1 between 2011-2013, to 45 between 2014-2016. The whales appear to be moving inside the estuary to feed on Atlantic menhaden.

This shift into the area may have adverse consequences for the whales. Lead author and graduate student Danielle M. Brown says, “This area can be dangerous to whales and to boaters who may not be aware of their presence. Sightings occur most often during the fall, so it is especially important for boaters to be cautious during this time of year.”

Many of the sightings in this study were reported by citizen scientists. Those interested in contributing to whale research should visit www.gothamwhale.org/wanted–.html  for more information.

To report a stranded marine mammal in New York, call 631-369-9829; in New Jersey, call 609-266-0538. To report an entangled whale or other marine animal, call 1-866-755-NOAA (6622)