NYC Sees Extraordinary Leap In Whale Sightings Thanks To Clean Water Legislation

Source: The Guardian/Oliver Milman

Photo: Flavio Gasperini/Unsplash

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For most New Yorkers, wildlife spotting is confined to squirrels, the odd raccoon and anguished encounters with rats. But in the waters surrounding the city a very different animal experience is quietly booming: sightings of whales.

A total of 272 whales were spotted in New York City waters last year, according to the citizen science group Gotham Whale. That is an extraordinary leap from 2011, when just five of the huge cetaceans were witnessed frolicking near the most populated urban area in the US.

The sightings, almost all of humpbacks, have been logged by Gotham Whale members who are building a catalogue of known individuals, of which there are currently 112. The organization is partnered with American Princess Cruises, which has restarted annual summer voyages from Queens to take spotters and tourists out to spy the vast aquatic mammals.

“The numbers keep increasing and increasing very dramatically,” said Paul Sieswerda, who was a curator at the New York Aquarium for two decades before starting Gotham Whale.

“Humpbacks were nearly hunted to extinction but the populations are coming back. The whales aren’t common knowledge in New York but word is getting out. People go crazy when they see them. They are amazed.”

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Photo: Flavio Gasperini/Unsplash

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