MA Boaters Urged to Watch for Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Whales. Photo: NOAA/NEFSC Peter Duley

The Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game (DFG) is urging boaters to be on the lookout for North Atlantic right whales—a critically endangered species—which have begun to congregate and feed in large numbers in Cape Cod Bay.

High Risk Area for Right Whales Around Provincetown

On April 14, approximately 25 to 30 right whales were spotted 500 yards off the coast of Provincetown. DFG’s Division of Marine Fisheries issued a “high risk” advisory due to the number of whales, their behavior, their proximity to shore and the local abundance of zooplankton. An aerial survey is being performed to fully ascertain the number of whales in the area. Last March and April, DMF counted close to 70 whales in Cape Cod Bay, where right whales gather annually to feed.

Northeasst Seasonal Management Areas

Right whales engage in surface and subsurface feeding and are often difficult to see, putting them at great risk to be struck by vessels. Vessel strikes are a major cause of human-induced mortality for right whales. For the safety of both mariners and whales, vessel operators in the Cape Cod Bay area are strongly urged to proceed with caution, reduce speed (less than 10 knots), and post lookouts to avoid colliding with these highly endangered whales.

Vessels are prohibited by state and federal law from approaching within 500 yards of a right whale. Boaters who find themselves within 500 yards of a right whale should slowly and cautiously exit the area.

Boaters are also urged to report all sightings of right whales by calling the NOAA Fisheries Hotline (866-755-NOAA or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16).

For more information:

Massachusetts Marine Fisheries

NOAA: Guide to reporting Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Wale Sighting Survey

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