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Look Out for Right Whales!

NOAA Fisheries asks all boaters and fishermen to keep a sharp lookout for whales and slow down in Cape Cod Bay to help protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. In the last two weeks, researchers have identified more than 75 right whales, including four mother-calf pairs, in Cape Cod Bay through aerial surveys.
With approximately 500 of these animals left in the world, this represents a significant percentage of their population. Unfortunately, NOAA Fisheries has already received a report of a possible vessel strike from a boater near the western shoreline of Cape Cod Bay.

Vessels 65 feet and greater in length are required to travel at 10 knots or less in Cape Cod Bay and off Race Point as a part of NOAA'
s Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction regulations. All vessels less than 65 feet in length--recreational and commercial--are asked to voluntarily comply with the 10 knot speed restriction at this time.

Right whales have no dorsal fins.
With no dorsal fin, right whales are particularly difficult to see from the surface. And, they often feed just below the surface, making them hard to see even at close range. Going slowly in areas where right whales have been sighted is the best way to avoid hitting them.

Dozens of feeding humpback, fin, and minke whales have also been spotted in Cape Cod Bay and the surrounding areas in recent days.

Paddle-shaped Flippers
Cape Cod Bay is included in the proposed critical habitat for this protected species, and is an important feeding area. The majority of the right whale population feed in Cape Cod Bay each year, along with several other endangered and protected large whale species.

Boats of all sizes--including kayaks--are at risk for colliding with whales. Collisions are dangerous for boats, passengers, and whales. Boats can sustain extensive damage from striking a whale, passengers can be thrown overboard, and whales can be gravely injured by the impact. Striking a whale can also result in criminal and civil penalties under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

How You Can Help

If you see any of the following, stay alert as right whales might be in the area:

  V-shaped Blow


  • Odd looking ripples at the water's surface--a right whale might be directly below the surface.
  • Pink, orange, or white lines of plankton--right whales feed on dense patches of plankton.
  • Feeding sei whales and/or basking sharks--these animals feed on the same plankton patches that often attract right whales.
  • Visit our web pages for recent right whale sightings, to register for a free email notifications, and to get whale watching tips.


White Markings on Head
If you see a right whale, stay at least 500 yards away (approximately three football field lengths). This is a state and Federal law and also applies to kayaks and fishing boats. The 500 yard rule prohibits the setting of fishing gear, including fixed fishing pots, within that distance of a right whale. Fishermen are urged to wait to set gear until the whales have left the area. If a right whale comes within 500 yards of your boat, slowly depart the area to maintain the 500 yard buffer.

If you see other whales, maintain a distance of at least 100 feet and never approach the animal head-on or interrupt feeding, resting, socializing, or traveling behaviors.

Report right whale sightings and injured, entangled, ship struck, or dead animals to NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Animal Reporting Hotline: 866-755-NOAA(6622).

Post a
flyer at your local marina or boat club.