Friday, December 09, 2011

{Press} Rare North Atlantic right whales spotted off Plymouth

The Patriot Ledger | Lane Lambert | December 8, 2011

PLYMOUTH —

Biologists and volunteers with a locally based national marine conservation group are keeping an even closer watch on the waters of Cape Cod Bay after a recent sighting of two rare North Atlantic right whales.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in Plymouth said Wednesday that it confirmed a volunteer spotter’s report late last week of two and possibly three of the endangered whales offshore from Ellisville Harbor State Park near the Cape.

Spokeswoman Karen Urciuoli said the sighting was “very unusual” for early December because right whales typically migrate to the bay from January to May.

While Urciuoli said “we’re always on high watch” for the rights, she said last week’s sighting prompted the conservation group to urge volunteer spotters to pay extra attention to the bay.

The right whales haven’t been seen again this week.

A few right whales have stayed year-round in Cape Cod Bay over the years, but Urciuoli said biologists with the Plymouth group and elsewhere still don’t know enough about the species’ behavior to determine why some are seen out of season, like those spotted last week.

“The fact that we saw them (last week) doesn’t mean they’ve never been here before,” Urciuoli said.

The conservation society is an international organization. Its North American office is in Plymouth.

Right whales are among the most threatened species on the planet, with a known population of fewer than 500. Heavily hunted in the 1800s for oil and whale bone, they’ve been on global endangered lists since 1973.

They’re prone to getting hit by fishing trawlers and other vessels because they’re dark in color and swim just below the ocean surface.

The Whale and Dolphin Society works with the Coast Guard and other groups to maintain a warning system to keep vessels away from where the whales herd, so they won’t be struck.

Lane Lambert is at llambert@ledger.com.

Read more: http://www.patriotledger.com/features/x1405377683/Rare-North-Atlantic-right-whales-spotted-off-Plymouth#ixzz1g4Hh71CH

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