Update July 25th, 2022: On Sunday, July 24th, a humpback breached and landed on the front of a small vessel. The operator reported no injuries and no major damage that affected the seaworthiness of the vessel. Plymouth Harbormaster is working with the Massachusetts Environmental Police to handle the investigation. It is important to remember that vessel strikes not only can harm the whale but also be dangerous to humans and vessels as well. It is vital to stay at least 100 feet away from whales to minimize any potential interactions.
(Plymouth, MA) - For over a week, whales have been making waves as they feed and breach in south Plymouth. They have brought locals and tourists to the shore in the hopes of catching a glimpse of these marine mammals. Additionally, some incredible photos and videos have been making rounds showing close interactions of whales and humans.
Plymouth-based non-profit, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has amped up their outreach programs to help share information about these incredible sightings as many questions are circulating about the recent visitors such as what kind of whales they are, why they are here, and what is the best spot to view them from.
The whales sighted and photographed have so far been humpback whales who can measure 35-55 ft. long and weigh up to 40 tons.
During their annual migration, humpback whales come to the nutrient-rich waters of Massachusetts to find their favorite food - small, bait fish. Although not commonly seen this close to shore, humpback whales will follow their food to shallower waters.
WDC says that photos from recent sightings show humpbacks “lunge feeding”, which is a behavior where humpback whales will corral bait fish and then lunge through to engulf a mouthful of fish and sea water.
WDC’s Executive Director Regina Asmutis-Silvia says, “From what we have seen, there is not a lot of “breaching” going on but rather lunge feeding which is based on where the fish are schooling. Feeding whales are often distracted whales making it more important for boaters to be watching for them as the whales are very focused on fish at that point, not boats.”
The team at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) amps up their outreach program by talking about whales at Manomet Point in Plymouth, MA.
HOW TO SEE WHALES
The safest way to see whales is from a high vantage point on land such as Manomet Point or White Horse Beach. By using tools such as binoculars and cameras with zoom lenses, you can get incredible looks at the whale sightings just off our coast.
For boat-based sightings, WDC encourages boaters to give whales space and create a buffer zone of at least 100 feet. By doing so, viewers will often get to see natural behavior from these animals. “We love the enthusiasm that local residents are showing for these whales off our coast and want people to enjoy them while they are here, but it’s important that they do it safely. The whales are moving sporadically while trying to catch fish, so boat operators in the area should be proactive and make sure they are keeping at least 5 boat lengths away.” says Monica Pepe, WDC’s Safe Boating Policy Manager.
Seeing a whale from a boat is an exciting experience but if not done safely, could result in accidental collisions that are harmful for both the boater and the whales. Pepe adds, “The whales are probably double the size of most of the boats we are seeing out there, which makes accidental collisions dangerous for everyone involved. There are Greater Atlantic Region whale watching guidelines for those who are recreationally whale watching but also are recommended for those trying to navigate around whales.”
To learn how to safely operate a boat around whales, check out “Spout Spotters” a free boater course launched by WDC and partners through their See A Spout program. This self-guided course only takes around 30 minutes to complete, and the first 300 participants get free polarized sunglasses.
LEARN ABOUT WHALES & DOLPHINS
Whales play a key role in our ocean as they help create oxygen, sustain fish populations and combat climate change by providing nutrients to plants of the ocean called phytoplankton.
WDC is a knowledgeable local resource for South Shore residents as they offer a number of education and outreach programs including formal education, community outreach, professional development, resources for the classroom and more.
Donate through our website here, or text SAVETHEWHALE to 44-321.
Save the whales, save the world!
Whale & Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is the leading global non-profit dedicated to the conservation of whales, dolphins, and their ocean home. WDC-North America is located in Plymouth, MA and works to protect whales and dolphins through outreach, policy, and science initiatives.
Monica Pepe, Safe Boating Policy Manager, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (774) 404-0105, [email protected]
Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Executive Director, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (508) 451-3853, [email protected]