Scientists from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium completed an aerial survey in late September around Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket where they saw six right whales. The whales were seen in a “Dynamic Management Area” (DMA), which is a voluntary slow-down zone for vessel traffic in areas where right whales have been seen recently in order to protect the endangered species. DMAs end after 15 days if right whales are not seen again, and this area was set to expire in early October. As a result of the Aquarium’s survey, which was funded by Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, vessels in the area will continue to be asked to reduce their speeds to less than 10 knots until Oct. 20 to protect these animals.
“The past several years, the New England Aquarium aerial survey has started to document an increased use of southern New England waters by right whales, including sightings in the summer and fall,” said Orla O’Brien, an assistant scientist at the Aquarium. “This season, we sighted our first right whale in late July, and along with our partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have continued to monitor a small but consistent group of animals over the Nantucket Shoals since then.”
About five years ago, O’Brien said they would see right whales only in the winter and spring in that southern New England area. Since 2017, they have been seeing more there in the summer and fall. Typically, right whales would migrate into the Bay of Fundy near Lubec, Maine, in July through September. However, in the last decade, sightings in the Bay have decreased and become more sporadic.
Aerial survey sponsored by MassCEC and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.