On Friday, April 15 the Center for Coastal Studies Aerial Survey team identified 206 individual rare North Atlantic right whales in Cape Cod Bay during a 10+ hour flight. This new record number represents about 40% of the entire population.
Among the animals spotted was right whale #1711 and her new calf, the last of the four 2017 mother/calf pairs to complete their 800+ mile journey from the birthing grounds off Florida and Georgia to the feeding grounds off Cape Cod.
Other species documented during the flight included 25 fin whales, 24 humpback whales, 40 sei whales, 9 minke whales, 3 unidentified large whales, and 13 unidentified dolphins.
The volume of whales in the Bay has raised concern for the safety of the animals, particularly that of the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Colleagues at IFAW and New England Aquarium confirmed that a young whale found dead in the Bay earlier this week died as a result of blunt trauma, most likely from a boat strike. That individual has been identified by researchers at NEAq as the 2016 calf of #4094.
Mariners in and around Cape Cod Bay and Race Point are urged to keep their speed below less than 10 knots and to post a lookout to reduce the risk of further collisions.
It is illegal to approach within 500 yards of a North Atlantic right whale without a research permit, but whale watchers can often see whales close to the bayside beaches and off Herring Cove and Race Point, Provincetown.
CCS right whale research and response operations are conducted in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and NOAA under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Support also comes from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, CCS aviation contractor New England Specialized Aviation Services, and contributions from CCS members.