Dozens of right whales spotted in regional shipping lanes



Marine conservation officials are asking boaters to reduce vessel speeds in the region after dozens of North Atlantic right whales were spotted swimming in shipping lanes off Nantucket and Cape Cod last week.

The New England Aquarium survey team was in the area on Feb. 20 when scientists spotted a group of right whales surface feeding about 35 miles east of Nantucket. About four hours later, a second group of right whales was seen 20 miles east of Chatham.

Over the course of the six-hour flight, the aquarium reports that crews identified 31 individual right whales.

“Right whales only surface feed under specific conditions, so we felt really lucky to document them this winter. Many of the whales identified so far are adults, including several calving females who have given birth in recent years,” said Katherine McKenna, assistant research scientist in the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium. McKenna was aboard the flight.

The Feb. 20 whale sightings triggered NOAA to extend a voluntary slow speed zone, called a Dynamic Management Area (DMA), for mariners to reduce their speed to 10 knots to protect the whales. The DMA is in effect until March 7, one of several active voluntary slow zones from Maine to Virginia.

During their flight, the aquarium survey team also sighted humpback, fin, and minke whales.

NOAA is currently considering modifications to the existing vessel speed rule to better protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose population is estimated at less than 360 individuals.


  1. The wind farm boats are now limited to ten knots.
    Should the SSA and Seastreak be forced to to do the same.

  2. Unfortunately the placement of the OSW lease sites south of the vineyard couldn’t have been chosen in a worse place. Not only is right in the middle of their migratory path but proven feeding grounds.
    If these whales avoid the sites , then they get pushed further into the heavily traveled shipping lanes that they’ve adapted over the years to avoid . if they remain in the area of the sites , then the increased back and forth ship traffic during construction, daily operations and maintenance become a larger threat than before.
    These areas have been recently closed to lobstering seasonally , so that threat is eliminated while the whales are here but the threat of shipstrikes in this area is very real , especially when you have 100’+ vineyard wind 1 cargo vessel doing close to 25mph through the suggested slow zone.
    It’s time we recognize all threats to this species and make the appropriate adjustments along the way to ensure their survival.

    • Vineyard Wind boats, by current company rule, are limited to ten knots.
      Everyone has access to their boat positions and speeds.
      What evidence do you have a hundred plus foot boats doing 25 “mph”

      It is time to recognize that all methods of energy production have a down side.
      I am willing to trade some whales for some cleaner air.
      Whales want cleaner air, too.

  3. The temperatures of the oceans around the world are rising and causing whales, especially, to find new places to swim, frolic, and live their lives. One of the kindest things we can do for marine life is full-steam ahead on renewable energy sources. EVERY roof in the US should have solar panels. Every new building and house should have some passive solar elements. Every location with capable winds should have windmills. Every shore that has high differential tides should capture energy from the tides. Every person should consider how to reduce their use of water and energy.

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