Humpbacks are invading New York City! A humpback whale breaks through the surface of the Atlantic Ocean just off a beach on the Rockaway peninsula near New York City (AP photos / Wildlife Conservation Society / Gotham Whale)
Humpbacks are invading New York City!
Lexile

Maybe they want to sing on Broadway.

Humpback whales have been approaching New York City in greater numbers. They are gigantic, endangered mammals. They are known for their haunting underwater songs,

The whales have been spotted in the Atlantic Ocean within a mile of the Rockaway peninsula. That is part of New York's borough of Queens. It's also within sight of Manhattan's skyscrapers.

"It is truly remarkable ... to have one of the largest and most charismatic species ever to be on this planet," said Howard Rosenbaum. He is director of the Ocean Giants program. It's part of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Humpbacks were spotted 87 times from the boats this year. By cataloging the whales' markings, at least 19 different humpbacks have been identified off the city.

Paul Sieswerda is founder of Gotham Whale. The organization documents the marine mammal population around New York. It said reports of humpbacks in the New York Bight, where the city's harbor meets the Atlantic, began to pick up around 2010. Gotham Whale then partnered with the American Princess whale-watching boat. Gotham Whale provided naturalists to document the sightings.

The naturalists also do an educational presentation on the boat, said Tom Paladino. He is the boat's captain.

"It was pretty slim pickings at first, actually," Sieswerda said. "We went on many cruises and had three sightings totaling five whales in 2011."

But in 2012, there were 15 sightings. In 2013, there were 33. This year there were 87 sightings totaling 106 humpbacks.

Many whales were sighted more than once. By comparing the shapes and markings of their tails of the whales, 19 different humpbacks have been documented near the city. Customers on the whale-watching tours are asked to share any photos they get of the markings. The pictures can be included in the "New York City Humpback Whale Catalog."

Humpbacks can be 50 feet long and weigh 40 tons. It's not clear why they are returning to New York's shores. They and other whale species were nearly destroyed by whaling.

Rosenbaum said the humpbacks' reappearance could be simply a shift in their habits. Menhaden is one of the whales' favorite foods. It's been in greater abundance recently. The small fish could have attracted the whales.

That might be because the water is cleaner.

Sieswerda agreed that various factors are in play but said, "I think it all begins with cleaner water."

Whatever the cause, humpback populations worldwide are increasing. Counting whales is difficult. The worldwide population is estimated at about 150,000. About 11,600 are in the Western North Atlantic. The area includes the New York Bight off New York City.

New Yorkers shouldn't expect to see humpbacks frolicking around the Statue of Liberty. The whales generally stay well outside the harbor.

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COMMENTS (29)
  • dylanm-Wre
    12/17/2014 - 10:27 a.m.

    hump back whales are cool because they eat lots of fish and i really like the story

  • jaidenb-Wre
    12/17/2014 - 10:28 a.m.

    I think its cool that humpback whales are in New York city because you could make a lot of descoveries about whales and it will be fun for everybody.

  • matthewn-Wre
    12/17/2014 - 10:31 a.m.

    I think it was awsome when they saw 87 whales 87 times.

  • clairem-Wre
    12/17/2014 - 10:33 a.m.

    That is amazing that many humpback whales in New York. If I wanted to study whales I would go to New York.

  • kimberlym-Wre
    12/17/2014 - 10:35 a.m.

    Why would the whales do that ? The New York people will be so upset.

  • AliceC-Mau
    12/17/2014 - 11:33 a.m.

    Its great that people are seeing more and more humpback whales every year because there in dangered mammals and it would be terrible if they become istinit.

  • ArnulfoL-Bla
    12/17/2014 - 03:53 p.m.

    I read the article humpback whales are invading New York.It was interesting to read that they might be coming because they are attracted to the small fish that are there.I also was thinking why do people hunt whales.They are becoming endangered.

  • dan16-Bla
    12/18/2014 - 12:50 p.m.

    how did they get there anyway did high tide come in or something?!?!

  • caragh5-Bla
    12/18/2014 - 01:25 p.m.

    Can humpback whales hurt you? I think humpbacks can because they are that big! I am surprised that there are so many humpbacks! And why are humpbacks out nearly when it is winter!!! Isn't it way to cold? Do humpbacks eat all the fish. Do humpbacks eat fish? Anyways that was a great article!

    -catgirl102

  • ashleighb-Hyl
    12/19/2014 - 09:54 a.m.

    It is amazing to read this article!! I am very interested in humpback whales. It is amazing that humpback whales are coming to New York City!! I can't believe there were 87 spotting's of whales!

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