Large Concentration Of Endangered Right Whales Spotted Off Nantucket

Jason Graziadei •

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Photos courtesy of the New England Aquarium, NMFS permit #25739. Taken on surveys of wind energy areas and surrounding waters sponsored by MassCEC and BOEM.

Just southwest of Nantucket late last week, 24 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales were spotted by a New England Aquarium survey team. As there are only an estimated 340 remaining North Atlantic right whales left in the world, it means the survey team witnessed approximately 7 percent of the entire population of the species on just this one pass southwest of Nantucket on March 10.

Among the remarkable sights the survey team observed: a 15-year-old right whale named Nimbus - which was previously entangled in fishing gear - was spotted free of any entanglement. It may have been the result of an effort earlier this year by the state Wildlife Resources Division in Georgia to disentangle the whale.

The sighting of the group of 24 whales prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to issue a voluntary "slow speed zone" for boaters in the area. All mariners in the area are encouraged to slow down to 10 knots or below in these so-called “Dynamic Management Areas” to help prevent boat strikes with the critically endangered whales. Both Dynamic Management Areas are in effect until March 26.

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