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Press Release

Press Release State Officials Caution Boaters about the Presence of Endangered Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay

For immediate release:
5/11/2015
  • Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
  • Department of Fish and Game
  • Division of Marine Fisheries

Media Contact for State Officials Caution Boaters about the Presence of Endangered Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay

Katie Gronendyke,

Boston — BOSTON – Saturday, May 9, 2015 – Officials from the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) are urging boaters to be on the lookout for endangered North Atlantic right whales which are aggregating in large numbers in Cape Cod Bay.  The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered large whales in the world, with a population of only about 550 animals.

State and federal law require that vessels and aircraft stay 500 yards away from right whales.  The law also prohibits the setting or hauling of fishing gear within 500 yards of a right whale. Vessels that find themselves within 500 yards of a right whale should slowly and cautiously exit the area.

To prevent vessel collision or entanglement, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) strongly urges boaters and commercial fishermen to proceed with caution, reduce speed to less than 10 knots, and post lookouts to avoid colliding with these highly endangered whales. Vessels longer than 65 feet are required to reduce their speed to less than 10 knots. The Massachusetts Environmental Police have increased patrols in Cape Cod Bay to enforce these rules and ensure the safety of the whales and boaters. 

The greatest concentrations of the whales are located in Cape Cod Bay between the canal and Duxbury and around Race Point. Right whales are typically gone from Cape Cod Bay by early May but the timing of the 2015 season is exhibiting a later than usual pattern.

Right whales gather annually in the waters off of Cape Cod to feed. Right whales engage in surface and subsurface feeding and are often difficult to see, putting them at great risk to be struck by vessels. Vessel strike is a major cause of human-induced mortality for right whales.  Highly concentrated amounts of zooplankton at and just below the surface are keeping the whales in the area. Based on a survey of zooplankton performed on May 6, it is expected that this aggregation of whales may persist for several more days. DMF will lift the advisory when the right whales depart the area.

Management of maritime activities near right whales is part of the DMF Right Whale Conservation Program. The Right Whale Conservation Program is a cooperative effort between DMF, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (CCS), and the National Marine Fisheries Service to study and protect right whales in Cape Cod Bay.
Please report all sightings of right whales immediately. Call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 866-755-NOAA (or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16). If you observe injured or entangled whales please call 800-900-3622 immediately and a rescue boat will be dispatched to assist. For more information, visit the DMFwebsite at http://www.mass.gov/marinefisheries or contact Erin Burke — erin.burke@state.ma.us or 978-551-0152 or Dan McKiernan —dan.mckiernan@state.ma.us or 617-626-1536.

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Media Contact for State Officials Caution Boaters about the Presence of Endangered Right Whales in Cape Cod Bay

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs 

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs seeks to protect, preserve and enhance the Commonwealth’s environmental resources while ensuring a clean energy future for the state’s residents. Through the stewardship of open space, protection of environmental resources, and enhancement of clean energy, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs works tirelessly to make Massachusetts a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.

Department of Fish and Game 

The Department of Fish & Game works to preserve the state's natural resources and exercises responsibility over the Commonwealth's marine and freshwater fisheries, wildlife species, plants, and natural communities, as well as the habitats that support them.

Division of Marine Fisheries 

The Division of Marine Fisheries manages the state’s commercial and recreational saltwater fisheries and oversees other services that support the marine environment and fishing communities.
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