Tuesday, April 13, 2010

{Press} Rare Whales Spotted Off Cape Cod

WCVB Channel 5 | April 13, 2010

"SCITUATE, Mass. --
Dozens of rare right whales put on a show Monday right off the coast of Cape Cod, WCVB-TV in Boston reported.

More than 40 of the animals were spotted. Officials said the animals come to the Massachusetts coast every spring to dine and that there are only a few hundred right whales left in the world.

"We get these large concentrations of copepods, often just below the surface of the water, and so these animals will be what we call 'skim feeding,' skimming through the surface of the water with their mouth wide open to feed," said Monica Zani of the New England Aquarium.

While it's all about the food for the whales, the watchers were closely observing a rare sight, learning how to better protect the endangered mammal.

"When they're on the surface and are feeding like this, they are really susceptible to a vessel strike and occasionally getting wrapped up in fishing gear," which are the two biggest causes of death for the Right Whale, said Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, senior scientist a the Center for Coastal Studies.

Boats need to keep a wide berth -- 1,500 feet by federal law.

"They do produce a very distinct, visible blow or spout -- it's shaped like a V. So, if you see that, you know to stay away," Zani said.

These massive animals can easily measure upwards of 60 feet and weigh over 50 tons. The whales can be recognized by the unique white markings on their nose and their classic water spout.

Right whales are very slow to breed. Officials said a female must be 9 years old to breed, and can only produce one calf every three to five years."

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