Whales reappear in Long Island Sound A humpback whale breaches the water in Long Island Sound off the coast of Stamford, Conn. (Dan Lent via AP)
Whales reappear in Long Island Sound
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It has been the year of the whale on Long Island Sound, where fishermen and other boaters have reveled in the return of the marine mammals after a long hiatus.
 
The highly unexpected sightings began in May, when three belugas were spotted off Fairfield, Connecticut. A minke whale was seen off Norwalk later in May. And there have been several humpback sightings in recent weeks, including as far west as Mamaroneck, New York, according to records kept by The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.
 
Whales haven't been seen in the western part of the sound since 1993, when a 30-foot finback was spotted in New Haven Harbor, said Joe Schnierlein, research and university liaison for the aquarium.
 
Videos and photos of humpbacks breaching the surface have been posted online by boaters, who were both excited and frightened by the close encounters.
 
Chris Curran of Darien, Connecticut, caught a young humpback whale on cellphone video breaching the water about 20 to 30 feet from his boat about a mile and a half off Darien and Norwalk, while he was with his 8-year-old son and his son's friend.
 
Curran said the humpback appeared to be a young whale about 10 to 15 feet long. It came out of the water about nine times, the last time being the closest.
 
"I was having heart palpitations, I was so excited," Curran said. "The boys were fearful for their lives. They thought it was an orca. I was never concerned about it hitting the boat until that last incident. Then I got out of there fast."
 
The whales have been the talk of Long Island Sound, including warnings to boaters from state and federal environmental officials to watch for whales and try to stay at least 100 feet away from them. If a whale gets within 100 feet, boaters should put their engines in neutral and not re-engage them until the whales are clear of harm. Federal law protects marine mammals.
 
Schnierlein believes the whales were attracted by a big increase in bait fish, including menhaden, which are rich in omega-3 oils and calories. He surmises menhaden have thrived for several reasons, including 2-year-old harvesting restrictions on them and a lack of rain. He believes little rain has reduced the amount of pollution-laden runoff that enters the sound.
 
Whale sightings in the eastern part of Long Island Sound also are uncommon events, according to records kept by Mystic Aquarium. The last confirmed sightings before this year were a long-finned pilot whale off Stonington in 2009 and a minke off Old Lyme in 2005, said Janelle Schuh, stranding coordinator at the aquarium.
 
Whales that have become stranded in the sound included a humpback that floated to Stonington on the edge of the sound from Rhode Island in July 2012, a fin whale in New Haven in 1993, long-finned pilot whales in Branford in 1991 and Madison in 1989, and a beluga whale in New Haven in 1986, Schuh said.
 
Daniel Lent of Easton, Connecticut, says he believes he saw two humpbacks Sept. 12 off the coast of Stamford. He snapped a photo of one breaching the water. He said it was about as big as his 27-foot boat.
 
"I thought I was staying away a safe distance," Lent said. "Then one came up behind me. That's when I freaked out. It went from being really cool to being really scary."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How has a change in the weather caused the whales to reappear?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (95)
  • darianv-3-bar
    10/01/2015 - 05:52 p.m.

    The change in weather has caused the whales to come back because the lack of rain has reduced the amount of pollution in the sound, so the small fish called menhaden, started to come back which attracted the whales. I found this article really interesting because this was the first time they had come back since 1993.

  • tylerl-day
    10/01/2015 - 09:11 p.m.

    I'm glad the whales and other marine life are coming back to the northeast. I once had a dream about saving the whales so even though I've never really been to close to a whale, I guess deep down I do care a lot for them. The closest thing I've come to is a dolphin. I went to Tampa over the summer and when I was jetskiing a dolphin surfaced about twenty yards from where I was. It was a pretty cool experience to say the least.

  • sierrab-ste
    10/01/2015 - 10:21 p.m.

    It's great that there's whales coming back again. Animals seem to be making a come back, as the whales are returning, the rhinos are having babies, etc. It would also be really cool to see these and be close to them, but like that one guy said it would also be super scary!

  • baylees-day
    10/01/2015 - 10:27 p.m.

    I think its amazing, being able to get that close to a whale! However, since whales haven't occupied the area since 1993 and the people around aren't use to it, it's very important that they educate the locals and tourist. There are certain precautions people should take so they don't hurt themselves nor the whales, like the article says, try to stay at least 100 feet from them. It also says a lot about the ever changing conditions of the water, something changed in that area that made the whales want to come back, a possible explanation is the fish surplus, but there could be other factors like water and/or pollution.

  • phoenixr-war
    10/02/2015 - 08:38 a.m.

    The change in the weather has caused the whales to reappear because of how little rain there is, Because of little rain there is a reduced amount of pollution runoff that enters the Long Island Sound.

  • charlesh-war
    10/02/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    wow so global warming changes whales too. Soon we'll have polar bear sightings in Texas.








  • jerimiahc-war
    10/02/2015 - 08:42 a.m.

    The whales coming back has been great but that also means that they can get caught in engine sounds.this can pull them away from their group and that is very dangerous.

  • williamv-war
    10/02/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    The whales in long island is very cool and I would like to see them. It is very interesting that they are that close and haven't been there in 82 years. The whales came for bait fish witch is very interesting.

  • cassieraes-war
    10/02/2015 - 08:50 a.m.

    Seeing the whales must be an amazing site. I think the right thing to do would be to turn of the engine if the whales got too close. If they kept their engines running the whales might get hurt.

  • brandons-day
    10/02/2015 - 09:56 p.m.

    This article is pretty cool. A whale coming back to an area after more than 20 years is amazing. If I saw a 20 foot whale come up close to me I would be terrified and I would get out of there very quickly. The kids were probably very scared being unknowledgeable about the animal and the way it looks.

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