Whales and dolphins flock to NYC waters

Here’s an increase in city traffic without banging your bonnet: the waters of our archipelago town have been teeming with marine life sightings all summer long.

While sharks have garnered most of the attention, images of whales, bottlenose dolphins, rays and other underwater townsfolk have flooded social media, mesmerizing beachgoers and dramatically changing perceptions of dirty old New York.

Sea-ing in this case is believing. Experts say years of conservation efforts have resulted in some of the healthiest waters in generations, with booming fish populations, clearer ocean waves and more ways to interact with our urban aquarium.

“These are still the sightings of a lifetime for me,” said Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Ocean Giants program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the New York Aquarium. “Off New York you can see bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales against the backdrop of the world’s greatest skyline.”

Seasonal sighting of a bottlenose dolphin in the New York waterfront.
A bottlenose dolphin in the New York waterfront.
Celia Ackerman/Gotham Whales
Whales in New York.
Whales have also been sighted.
Celia Ackerman/Gotham Whales

Research organization Gotham Whale tweeted on Sunday photos of the nine whales it spotted on an “amazing day” on the water as it swam in tandem and performed a rare triple surface breach. Ten years ago, Gotham Whale only identified five whales throughout the summer; now the total number of whales visiting the NYC area is more than 260.

“It never gets old, it’s always exciting,” said Celia Ackerman, a naturalist at American Princess Cruises who took the pictures. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Ackerman couldn’t wait to move out of town to study marine life.

“I never thought I’d be able to enjoy them right here in my backyard,” she said.

This year is actually the result of decades of successful water stewardship, environmentalists said, citing the Clean Water Act, measures to protect marine wildlife and local efforts to control storm runoff and eliminate industry along the city’s waterfront to produce what the city has been called the cleanest water since the civil war. These waters feed more fish in the food chain, which attracts larger appetites from whales and sharks.

A man with a camera photographs a whale.
Ten years ago, Gotham Whale only identified five whales throughout the summer; now the total number of whales visiting the NYC area is more than 260.
Celia Ackerman/Gotham Whales
a dolphin
Experts say years of conservation efforts have resulted in some of the healthiest waters in generations, with booming fish populations, clearer ocean waves and more ways to interact with our urban aquarium.
Celia Ackerman/Gotham Whales

“You know where good food is. That’s what New York has always been famous for,” said Paul Sieswerda, CEO of Gotham Whale.

In particular, NYC has the Menhaden fish to thank for the recent spate of marine life sightings. The fish — pronounced like “Manhattan” — is too oily for humans to eat, but other fish love it.

Ten years ago, a ship’s captain joked to Sieswerda that the Rockaways would become the new Cape Cod, a coast famous for whale sightings.

“He made that remark very presciently,” Sieswerda said. “Every year we see more and more whales. Wildlife is just increasing significantly.”

Increased shipping traffic could lead to some tough conversations in the near future about how to use our waterways and how to safely spot wildlife. But for now, the effect was felt from the boats in New York Harbor to the surf lineup at Rockaway Beach.

“What I see here is what I see in Puerto Rico or in Panama,” said Lou Harris, a Rockaway Beach surf instructor who runs the Black Surfing Association.

When a student recently said he saw stingrays in the water, Harris thought he was joking.

“I’ve been here for 16 years, I’ve never seen stingrays,” he said. “Five minutes later, five drive right past me shooting like UFOs, it’s crazy.”

https://nypost.com/2022/08/18/sightings-of-a-lifetime-whales-dolphins-flock-to-nyc-waters/ Whales and dolphins flock to NYC waters

JACLYN DIAZ

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