Provincetown Life Information

Division of Marine Fisheries warn Provincetown boaters of Northern right whales

Published: Sun April 16, 2006
By: Straight Dope in Life > Fishing & Boating
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By Michael Levenson | Boston Globe

The Division of Marine Fisheries is warning boaters to be on the lookout for the majestic and endangered mammals, some 27 of which have been spotted in the waters off Provincetown.

The agency asked boaters to reduce speeds to 12 knots, post lookouts, and proceed with caution when navigating within 5 miles of Provincetown, including the waters off the eastern shore of Cape Cod to Highland Light in Truro.

The Northern right whale, coal-black leviathans once hunted for their oil and baleen, is the most endangered of the large whales found in the western Atlantic Ocean, numbering only about 350, state officials say.

State officials say the 27 spotted over the last week are feasting on dense blooms of plankton. To eat, the whales submerge and become oblivious to boaters, placing the mammals at risk of hitting a vessel, officials said.

US regulations prohibit boaters from coming within 500 yards of a right whale, which can grow to 50 feet and weigh 60 tons.

Cape Cod Bay is one of only five main habitats for northern right whales, typically drawing them from late winter to early spring. During summer months, the whales head to the Bay of Fundy in Canada and Brown’s Bank, south of Nova Scotia.

A ship last hit a right whale in Massachusetts in 1999, striking and killing a 60-ton female off Cape Cod.

This week is expected to be a busy one in Cape Cod Bay, as fishermen, pleasure boaters, and commuter ships enjoy the fair weather.

Researchers will be trying to study the whales, officials said.

Scientists from Cornell University have rigged buoys with microphones and cellphones to record the whales’ calls. When a whale is detected, they plan to relay the information to state officials and boaters.

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