More on Narragansett Bay Belugas

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On Friday, May 15, a team from NOAA Fisheries, with assistance from Mystic Aquarium’s Research and Animal Rescue teams, located the 3 beluga whales that have been sighted in Upper Narragansett Bay and obtained biopsy samples to assess their health and genetic origin.

According to a NOAA release, Robert Michaud, scientific director of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals and coordinator of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network, was able to photo-identify one of the beluga whales as belonging to the threatened St. Lawrence population. The whale was last sighted in 2013. The St. Lawrence belugas have been in a slow population decline for the past decade and were believed to number only around 900 animals in 2012, down from more than 10,000 in the late 1800s.

Beluga whales have been spotted in Narragansett waters once before, and individuals are occasionally seen in waters off Maine and Massachusetts. This is the first time a group of 3 whales has been spotted together in regional waters, says NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Response Coordinator Mendy Garron.

“These whales may have followed the cold waters of the Labrador current down along the coast,” says Garron. “Water temperatures are still cool in the Northeast, which may be favorable for beluga whales and their prey.”

NOAA Fisheries and Mystic Aquarium reminds residents and boaters in the area that Federal guidelines require people to stay at least 100 feet away from the animals and not chase them or impede their movements. Vessels should slow to no-wake speeds if near the whales. Don’t try to interact or feed the whales, as these activities will be detrimental to their health and well-being.

“We ask that boaters keep a sharp lookout for these whales when starting their boats in the marina,” said Garron. “We also ask that should the whales approach your boat, you put your boat in neutral until they have passed safely. Also, please report any sightings. Locating the whales will help us keep them safe.

Sightings of the belugas should be reported to NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Stranding and Entanglement Hotline at (866) 755-NOAA (6622) or to Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Hotline at (860) 572-5955 ext. 107.