Cape Cod Bay hosts massive gathering of endangered North Atlantic right whales

April 14, 2017, 1:45 p.m.
right whale mother with her 2017 calf
Photo: Center for Coastal Studies

A North Atlantic right whale mother with her 2017 calf — only the fourth born this season — are the poster whales for an incredible event that took place this week. They were photographed by two Provincetown-based Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) observers during a flight on April 12 over Cape Cod Bay to survey the whales.

During that single eight-hour flight, the duo counted an incredible 163 individual whales, which represents nearly one third of the global population of the critically endangered species. The whales are drawn to the bay's particularly rich food supply, and that's giving researchers a unique opportunity to identify and study individual whales.

“There are only about 524 North Atlantic right whales in the world, so to see this concentration of individuals in what is essentially our backyard is incredibly exciting,” said flight coordinator Amy James.

The mother pictured here is right whale #1412, and according to one of the observers, Brigid McKenna, “Until yesterday, #1412 has only ever been documented on Jeffrey's Ledge, the Cape Farewell Grounds off Greenland, and off Iceland, so this is a really important sighting.”

Hopefully the abundance of food fattens up the whales and helps the new calves strengthen up to reach adulthood, as they're critical to the future of this species.

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