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Reynolds Channel Humpback Whale Updates

Saturday, November 18, 2017

From Atlantic Marine Conservation Society

4pm update: During today’s operations Reynolds Channel and the back-bay areas were surveyed extensively to locate the whale. Survey efforts were conducted by vessels, land based stations, and aerial survey. During survey operations between 7 and 11:30 am there were no reports or sightings of the whale. Reports were received of several whales outside of the channel off of Long Beach.  Biologists collected photographs and data on four individual animals, and will use these data for comparison to the animal observed inside the channel.

Herding operations will stand down, and AMCS remains on standby for future reports.  We are optimistic that the whale has returned to open water. We continue to work with local partners to monitor the whale population in New York’s coastal waters.

AMCS and NOAA Fisheries extend gratitude to our collaborating partners during this effort: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Town of Hempstead Bay Constables, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The US Coast Guard Station Jones Beach, Nassau County Marine Bureau, Nassau County Police Department, North Carolina State University, Wildlife Conservation Society, Operation Splash, Gotham Whale, and The Nature Conservancy.

12:30pm update:The team’s morning surveys covered the area from 7 to 11:30 a.m., but they were unable to locate the whale in Reynold’s Channel or in the back bays. We have unconfirmed reports of the whale being spotted outside Reynolds Channel, and will continue to monitor the area in case the whale reappears in the channel. There were six whales sighted outside of the channel, though the team is still working to confirm whether one of the whales is the same that was in the channel through photo documentation. 

We want to thank NYS DEC, Town of Hempstead, US Coast Guard, volunteers from IFAW, NOAA, and the local community for their continued support and assistance as we monitored this whale. We will continue to monitor the area, and ask that anyone who sees the whale in the area lets us know either by calling 631-369-9829 or emailing

Friday, November 17, 2017

7:30pm update: The whale was last sighted today at noon. Herding efforts will move forward tomorrow, Saturday, November 18, 2017, beginning at 6 a.m., as planned. Atlantic Marine Conservation Society will work with NOAA, NYS DEC, Town of Hempstead, US Coast Guard, volunteers from IFAW, and the local community to begin herding efforts for the whale in Reynolds Channel. Experts  will be available after herding efforts have been completed. Because of the nature of this event, we cannot say definitely when these efforts will be complete, but we expect to take a break around noon if the whale does not leave the channel by then.

Herding will consist of using three authorized vessels: a US Coast Guard boat, a Bay Constable boat from Town of Hempstead, and a fire boat, to encourage the whale toward the closest outlet to the ocean. Periodic breaks will be taken to limit stress to the whale. It is also important that the animal does not become used to boats, which could alter its future behavior. Members of the community are asked to please limit time on the water, or if possible stay clear of the area, so the team of professional and experienced staff can work to get the whale back out to the ocean.

Media contacts for tomorrow's operation:

Rachel Bosworth, AMCS,, 631-220-1220

Jennifer Goebel, NOAA Fisheries,, 978-290-0203

From Atlantic Marine Conservation Society:

Due to high winds, we are planning to monitor the whale today, mostly from land. At last report, it still appeared healthy, and was swimming well. We want to avoid stressing the animal today, and want to avoid further habituating it to boats. We are moving equipment and vessels into place to prepare to attempt to herd the whale out of the channel tomorrow. Working with NOAA, DEC, the Town of Hempstead, US Coast Guard, IFAW volunteers, and local community members, we're going to use fireboats and other vessels to encourage the whale toward the closest outlet to the ocean.

We will be starting first thing in the morning, and will post updates as we have them.

Boaters: Please keep a close lookout wherever you are! The whale has been spotted in shallow areas as well as in deeper channels. If you see the whale, please be sure to give it space and report the sighting to, with as much specific information about its location as you can.

**Check out our FAQs on this out-of-habitat whale, herding, and stranding responses.

Best ways to help:

Report sightings from LAND to

Please stay away from the whale if you have to be on the water.

Find out more about humpback whales and marine mammal strandings.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

From Atlantic Marine Conservation Society

6 pm updateAtlantic Marine Conservation Society has continued to monitor the whale on the water today with NYS DEC, US Coast Guard, and Town of Hempstead Bay Constables. Efforts to gather resources for herding the whale out of the area have begun.

Herding techniques consist of  using boats to urge the whale in the right direction out of the channel. It is important to emphasize that herding efforts must be done gently and periodically, yet effectively, as to not stress the animal. Herding attempts can sometimes result in negative behavior changes  at which time the teams will stand down to ensure the safety of response personnel and the animal.

Because of tomorrow’s weather forecast, monitoring throughout Friday will be conducted from land, with on water herding efforts to resume on Saturday, November 18.

Boaters are reminded to be aware of the whale when entering the channel, and to keep a safe distance of at least 100 feet.

From Atlantic Marine Conservation Society:

10:30 am update: Our team went out yesterday, with support from the Town of Hempstead and NY DEC, and observed a whale for a period of five hours. The team observed one individual that traveled an extensive area around Hog Island Channel, went as far north as the mouth of the Mill River, and returned to Reynolds Channel at the end of the afternoon. While we continue to get numerous reports of whales in the immediate area, our efforts concentrated on this individual whale due to the potential dangers it could face in the shallower areas of channels in this vicinity.

A team comprised of AMCS biologists, Town of Hempstead conservation officers, and NY DEC law enforcement personnel will again survey the same general area today to verify presence of any whales in the area, confirm if sightings are of the same or multiple individuals, and document behavior that will be used as a baseline for further monitoring and assessment efforts.

We continue to ask the communities’ assistance in giving the whales space by maintaining a safe viewing distance, reduce vessel speeds around whales, and report sightings to

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From Atlantic Marine Conservation Society:

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was made aware of a humpback whale swimming in Reynolds Channel near Long Beach Bridge by The Nature Conservancy on Friday, November 10, 2017 at 8:45 a.m. The Nature Conservancy saw a video on Facebook with drone footage by a member of the public that had posted the video in the evening of Thursday, November 9, 2017. Sightings have been sporadic since. There have been several reports of whales in the surrounding area within the last week as well, which is normal for that area.

On Wednesday, November 15 around 9:30 a.m., an AMCS biologist joined Town of Hempstead Bay Constables on the water to survey the area and observe the whale. It appears to be behaving normally, breathing well and swimming freely. The whale is estimated to 24-28 feet in length. AMCS, the Town, and the Coast Guard are urging the public to keep a distance of at least 100 feet and not approach it head-on so as to not stress the animal and use caution when navigating the area.

Humpback whales have not commonly been seen in Reynolds Channel, though sightings around the area are not rare. There have been whales reported swimming in and out of Jones Inlet as well as surrounding areas. There has been an increase of sightings in recent years, as well as reports of more food in the areas surrounding Long Island and New York Harbor, which has resulted in more reports of these whales. AMCS will continue to monitor the area, working with Town of Hempstead Bay Constables, Department of Environmental Conservation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.

NOAA recently revised the Endangered Species listing of humpback whales globally earlier this year and a number of populations are no longer listed, including those most commonly found off New York. However, we are concerned about their health and safety, as, along with an increase in abundance, we have seen an increase in mortalities along the East Coast.