Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Are these humpback whales too close for comfort?

September 3, 2018 by Emily Arntsen, Northeastern University
As many as six humpback whales were spotted in Boston Harbor on Wednesday, a rare sight in the congested shipping port. But the whales probably weren't lost, according to Joseph Ayers, a professor at Northeastern's Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts. They were probably just looking for a snack.
"There appear to be a lot of bait fish in the area right now, like pogies, and that seems to be attracting the whales," he said. Ayers, who specializes in marine science and neurophysiology, said that whales are usually feeding whenever people see them close to shore.
Ayers said that in the past, he has seen humpbacks as close as "50 yards off the wharf in Nahant." But while it might be normal for these whales to come close to shore, it's not common for them to swim into Boston Harbor. In fact, Ayers said it could be quite dangerous.
"Boats are the biggest problem for whales. If a whale swims into the propeller of a boat, especially something as big as a shipping vessel, it could be deadly," he said. Since the whale sightings earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston has warned boaters to be aware of the animals.
Boaters might be able to avoid whales by steering clear of large flocks of birds because, according to Ayers, "Whenever you see a flock of birds, it means there are fish around." And where there are fish, there could be humpback whales.

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