It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane… It’s a Humpback Whale?

by Carolyn Sotka

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Humpback whale ‘spy hopping’ and an acrobatic breach with Empire State Building as its backdrop.

Photo by: Artie Raslich/Gotham Whale

New York, far more typically known for its bright lights, big city vibe, has a new and quite unexpected tourist attraction. Sightings of endangered humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) – more commonly seen off Alaska or the coast of Hawaii – have been on the rise in the waters around Manhattan and the Boroughs, and have more than doubled from two years ago.

The Big Apple’s best-kept secret won’t be a secret for long, with at least 52 humpback sightings this past summer. This increase in sightings may be due to an upswing in menhaden, one of their important prey fish.

Gotham Whales has been dedicated to study, advocate for, and educate about the whales and marine mammals of New York City. Through their citizen science program – they have started a catalog to collect observations, data and photo IDs of individual whales.

According to their site: “The juxtaposition of wild populations of marine mammals; seals, dolphins, and whales, with the millions of people that inhabit The City, can be the source of intriguing knowledge, incredible enjoyment, and sometimes, tragic disruption.”

To learn more about responsible marine wildlife viewing both in NYC and in your area see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Viewing Guidelines.  

Check out CBS Evening New’s coverage of the whales with Jim Axelrod.

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