Aquatic Mammals Return to New York City

Dolphins, whales, and seals have made a triumphant return to the waters outside of New York Harbour. This spells great news for sightseers and has sparked seal and whale watching tours.

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Underwater animals have returned to New York Harbour

According to Tom Paladino who is the Captain of 2 ferry boats from the Rockways, pods of aquatic mammals off New York City’s coastline have “increased tenfold”. He said that they normally only saw 10 whales per year, and now they are seeing about 100 whales. Dolphins were also able to be seen every day between the months of June to September. In addition, there are more seals in New York Harbour earlier in January that he has even started weekend tours on his ferry, the American Princess. On a tourist trip last weekend, he spotted 14 of them splashing about at a small island just off Staten Island.

Professor Chris Clark of Cornell University estimates that there may be about 30 to 50 fin whales that are now living full-time in the waters that are just past the Verrazano Bridge. Cornell University have installed acoustical monitors both near and in the harbour. They have discovered 6 whale species that can be found around the New York-New Jersey bite. Clark says, “they’ve found a real menagerie of giants.”

Other experts say that cleaner waters and anti-hunting laws may have brought back the whales and the other aquatic mammals which have been absent for 100 years. Clark said that the numbers returning to New York Harbour are extraordinary. They are “far, far more than expected, even for me. I’ve been surprised elsewhere in the world, but off New York – yikes!”

The data was collected by a federally funded study by Cornell University as well as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

When the acoustic traps were first laid in New York’s waters in 2008, researchers were surprised to hear not only 20 minute serenades of humpback whales, but also a huge number of fish that were making a racket.

“Black drum fish lit up the night with their choruses. Males were out there singing their hearts out: ‘Hey Baby! Hey Baby! Hey Baby!’ There’s a cornucopia of life 10 miles off the Verrazano Bridge. It’s mind-boggling!” Clark said.

Officials said that this study was supposed to only last for 3 years. However, it was abandoned when a DEC official that was overseeing this project quit to get her doctorate. Fortuntaely, budget cuts made it possible to hire a replacement.

Clark said that the entire whale study needs to be revived to fully undrestand the extent of the whale activity around the New York Harbour. They also need to learn how to best protect these aquatic creatures so that they stay.

Environmentalists are rather worried about endangered species such as the Right Whale, which was spotted in New York along with the Sei, Fin, Humpback, Blue, and Mike whales. The Right Whale is the slowest moving species found locally as it only travels less than 10 knots. It is also the most likely to be killed by ships.

Clark hopes that this good news will assist to raise $1 million in order to revive the whale study and install a sophisticated monitoring system similar to ones found in Boston which notify boats to slow down.

Maureen Murphy of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “We don’t know what’s off our coastline. I know more from 19th century books than I do from anything printed in the last century.”

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