Tuesday, April 26, 2011

{Press} Officials warn boaters to steer clear of endangered right whales

Boston Globe | Martin Finucane | April 20, 2011

State officials are warning boaters plying the waters around the tip of Cape Cod to keep an eye out for endangered North Atlantic right whales.

About 101 of the animals were spotted in an aerial survey on Tuesday, said Erin Burke, a protected species specialist at the Division of Marine Fisheries.

She said the whales are feeding on abundant plankton and swim just beneath the surface. Being hit by a boat can be fatal to the whales; it can also damage boats, she said.

“We mostly want to get the information out to boaters,” Burke said, noting that some small recreational boats go “screaming through that area."

Pictures taken by Burke last Thursday showed whales in the water just off of Provincetown.

The whales visit Cape Cod Bay each year from January through May, she said, with their population reaching a peak in March and April.

The number of whales sighted Tuesday is the most that observers have ever spotted in a single day, she said. That's in keeping with a general trend towards more whale sightings in Cape Cod Bay in recent years.

She said the crowd of cetaceans could be around for another week before the plankton runs thin and the whales move on.

The division issued a high risk advisory last Thursday, urging operators of boats in the area to reduce speed to less than 10 knots and post lookouts. The division also said that vessels are prohibited under state and federal law from approaching within 500 yards of a right whale."

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