Boaters are urged to be cautious of whales near Plymouth Harbor
Massachusetts authorities are warning boaters and personal watercraft users to be careful in ocean waters near Plymouth, where three juvenile humpback whales have been feeding for at least a week.
While many have gathered to take photos of the whales from shore, people have also taken to bringing their boats as close together as possible, which creates the possibility of disturbing the whales and possibly endangering them.
Massachusetts Environmental Police and the Department of Fish and Game’s Marine Fisheries Division released a statement saying the feeding behavior of young whales is “highly unpredictable” when feeding in shallow areas of menhaden, or “pogies”. They said a combination of shallow water, the approach of boaters and the young age of the whales can increase this unpredictable behavior.
That’s why they urge caution when boaters, kayakers, paddleboarders and others enter the area where these whales could be feeding.
“A collision with a vessel or watercraft can cause damage to the vessel, physical injury to the whale, and potential serious or fatal injury to the humans involved,” the statement said.
It is recommended that anyone on a boat or personal watercraft stay at least 100 feet away from the whales.
The statement also points out that under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to harass whales.
“Harassment includes any act of pursuit, torment or embarrassment that may injure or disrupt the animal’s feeding behavior,” the statement read.
The Plymouth Harbor Master, MEP and National Marine Fisheries Service Enforcement Office will patrol the waters off Plymouth Harbor to ensure whales and sailors are safe.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers some guidelines for sailing around whales, including tips such as sailing at a wakeless speed around them and not approaching them head-on.
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