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. Fishermen and other boaters have rejoiced in the return of the marine mammals after a long break.
 
The highly unexpected sightings began in May. 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. One was as far west as Mamaroneck, New York. This is according to records kept by The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.
 
Whales haven't been seen in the western part of the sound since 1993. That is when a 30-foot finback was spotted in New Haven Harbor, said Joe Schnierlein. He is 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. It was about a mile and a half off Darien and Norwalk. Curran 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. Warnings have been issued to boaters 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. They include menhaden, which are rich in omega-3 oils and calories. He believes menhaden have thrived for several reasons. They include 2-year-old harvesting restrictions on menhaden 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. This is 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. She is the 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 and a fin whale in New Haven in 1993. Long-finned pilot whales appeared in Branford in 1991 and Madison in 1989 and a beluga whale was seen in New Haven in 1986.
 
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 (72)
  • annabel1226-yyca
    10/01/2015 - 07:00 p.m.

    Wow! People didn't see a humpback whale for a long time. So they are getting enthusiastic.I wish I could get to see a real whale like those fisherman. Then, I would take thousands of pictures before they splash into the water.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    10/01/2015 - 08:08 p.m.

    Wow! It has been 22 years since they have seen a whale there? At least they are back and staying for a bit.

    • zachariat-sch
      11/18/2015 - 03:54 p.m.

      I THINK SO

  • justiny-2-bar
    10/01/2015 - 10:01 p.m.

    The change of weather caused whales to reappear because of less rain means less pollution in the runoff to decrease the amount of menhaden. When I read this article I was really surprised to find that the las whale sighting was in 1993.

  • tylera-1-bar
    10/01/2015 - 10:51 p.m.

    Change in weather has caused whales to reappear because the lack of rainfall has reduced the amount of pollution-laden runoff that enters the sound. The reduced amount of runoff has caused menhaden populations to increase attracting whales to the Long Island Sound. I thought this article was interesting because a little change in rainfall can bring back many great species such as whales.

  • evelyns-war
    10/02/2015 - 08:45 a.m.

    Schnierlein, a research and university liaison for The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, believes the whales were attracted by a big increase in bait fish. Bait fish are rich in omega-3 oils and calories. Menhaden thrived for many reasons, 2 year old harvesting restrictions were on on menhaden and there was a lack of rain so little rain has reduced the amount of pollution-laden runoff that enters the sound.

  • jackr-2-bar
    10/02/2015 - 10:56 a.m.

    the small amount of rain in that area restricts the amount of run off having more menhaden return to Long Island, which is a source of food for the whales. I personally think this article is quite interesting and having you wanting to read more.

  • emilys-ver
    10/02/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    I would be freaked out if I saw one of these whales too.A whale that is 10 to 15 feet would scare me.

  • parisc-hyl
    10/02/2015 - 02:39 p.m.

    I CAN,T BELIEVE THE WHALE WAS AS BIG AS HIS 27 FOOT BOAT.

  • travisc-hyl
    10/02/2015 - 02:42 p.m.

    I think 27ft wales are crazy .I love wales I would love to see a wale in person.I have never sen a wale jump out of the water!

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