Saturday, March 13, 2010

Migrating right whales spotted off P'town

Cape Cod Times | Mary Ann Bragg | March 12, 2010

"At least two dozen North Atlantic right whales have been spotted off the coast of Provincetown as their annual feeding season begins in the Northeast, said a Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies scientist this morning.

Aerial surveys and boat sightings by the center's research and monitoring teams have indicated that the rare mammals have traveled in and out of Cape Cod Bay, a critical habitat. The whales have so far not “anchored in the inner bay,” said Charles “Stormy” Mayo, who directs a right whale habitat study for the center.

“They're definitely here,” Mayo said today. “The last information we've received from aerial surveys and vessels is that they're north of Provincetown. But I expect they'll be coming back in. We usually see them early. We did see them as early as January this year.”

The greatest concentration of the whales in Cape Cod waters occurs in March and April, Mayo said.

The North Atlantic right whales are listed as endangered, and therefore protected, under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. To be “endangered” means that the species could become extinct in at least a portion of its natural habitat.

The western North Atlantic right whales, which visit Cape Cod waters to feed in the spring, number between 300 and 400, based on federal government estimates. They spend their winters and calve in coastal waters off southeastern Georgia and Florida. In the spring they move north and feed in waters off New England, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick."

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