Tuesday, April 26, 2011

{Press} OPEN SEASON: Boaters be wary of right whales in Cape Cod Bay

SouthCoastToday.com | Marc Folco | April 24, 2011

"MarineFisheries has asked boaters to be on the lookout for North Atlantic right whales — a critically endangered species, which have begun to congregate and feed in large numbers in Cape Cod Bay. Approximately 25 to 30 right whales recently were spotted off the coast of Provincetown. MarineFisheries issued a high risk advisory due to the number of whales, their behavior, their proximity to shore and the local abundance of zooplankton — tiny marine creatures on which the whales feed. Right whales gather annually in the waters off of Cape Cod to feed and nearly 70 were counted by MarineFisheries during March and April of last year.

Right whales are the most endangered large whale in the North Atlantic, with a population of approximately 450 animals. Adult right whales average from 45 to 55 feet in length and can weigh up to 70 tons — the largest measured specimens have been measured at 60 feet long, weighing 117 tons.

The whales engage in surface and subsurface feeding and are often difficult to see, putting them at great risk with vessel-strike being a major cause of human-induced mortality. For the safety of both mariners and whales, vessel operators in the Cape Cod Bay area are strongly urged to proceed with caution, reduce speed (less than 10 knots), and post lookouts to avoid colliding with these highly endangered whales. MarineFisheries will lift the advisory when the right whales depart the area.

Vessels are prohibited by state and federal law from approaching within 500 yards of a right whale. Massachusetts Environmental Police and U.S. Coast Guard are authorized to enforce the 500-yard rule. Vessels that find themselves within 500 yards of a right whale should slowly and cautiously exit the area. Report all sightings of right whales immediately. Call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 866-755-NOAA (or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16) and for more information, visit www.mass.gov/marinefisheries."

Marc Folco is the outdoor writer for The Standard-Times. Contact him at openseason1988@aol.com

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