Humpbacks Come Back

By JW Dowey - 10 Dec 2014 11:55:54 GMT
Humpbacks Come Back

Mothers and daughters, we say below. This pic was actually taken in Costa Rica where the waters are a lot warmer than those you would find in the New York Bight. But jump in if you like, although we suspect the camera is more waterproof than you are. Humpback image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Paul Sierswerda began Gotham Whale as a Citizen Science venture.8 years ago. The organisation tracks seals, dolphins and whales off the New York coast. Amazingly, he now heads an organisation which is recognising individual humpbacks as they return, literally in force, to the waters where once they were hunted to extinction. Luckily, of the 1400 whales worldwide that survived the slaughter, a few now enjoy peace and appreciate the cleaner waters of the mighty Hudson River.

This interesting city preoccupation involves cruises aboard The American Princess. Anybody can now see the 56 foot (17m) Gotham City monster that is the humpback whale, as the annual sightings between the Rockaway peninsula and New Jersey have gone up in the last 3 years from 15 to 33, and now 87! There are only 19 individuals in that humpback count, but add on all the other whales and dolphins and you have a new site to add to the world-famous whale-watcher faves. As we are fond of quoting Megaptera novaeangliae and its songs, bubble-nets and social life in the encyclopaedia and elsewhere, this increase in the western Atlantic population is very welcome. Add the ongoing fluke ID program that Paul and his colleagues have instituted, and you have mothers and daughters, fathers and sons to spot as you enjoy the admittedly rough weather.

All of this began with grey and harbor seal watching on man-made Swinburne Island (near Staten Island), using Kingsborough Community College’s Maritime Center. As that population was growing, Paul progressed onto weekly counts when he became Naturalist on board the American Princess. Then the other marine mammals began increasing their populations, while the patrons of the commercial operation became well-used citizen scientists. The photography alone has produced a unique database of the 19 humpbacks and many more species too.

Best wishes to the project and the outstanding photography of the participants. Now about all the other species that we can get New-Yorkers to help conserve-----!