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Erin Burke

Erin Burke

Protected Species Specialist, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF)

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The endangered North Atlantic right whale has started arriving in Cape Cod Bay! After deploying our acoustic monitoring buoys in December 2009, the bay had been largely silent…until recently. During an aerial survey conducted by plane on February 2, observers spotted 27 whales in the bay. (The Division of Marine Fisheries partners with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies to conduct aerial and vessel surveillance of the right whales and their habitat.)

Right Whales in Cap Cod Bay

Before the survey, the Listen for Whales website showed the buoys in the shipping lanes detecting calls, while the bay was quiet. So we knew that right whales were poking around the Gulf of Maine – they just hadn’t ventured into Cape Cod Bay yet. Now, the buoys in the bay detect dozens of calls every day. Click here to find out where in Cape Cod Bay the whales were detected.

The photo was taken during the survey under National Marine Fisheries Service permit 633-1763, issued under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Food lures right whales back to the bay each year. The species of zooplankton they feed on changes as the season progresses. Currently, they’re munching on a species that lives in the middle of the water column, but around April, they switch to a species that hangs out at the water’s surface. That’s when they start skim feeding – a spectacular behavior they often do close to beaches in Provincetown and Sandwich.

I’ll keep you posted about any whale-watching opportunities from shore!

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