A spring and summer recreational boating season marked by frequent whale encounters in the New York Bight has federal officials stressing that boaters must obey the law and keep a safe distance from marine mammals.

One of 10 endangered right whale calves birthed off the East Coast in recent months was found dead June 27 near Monmouth Beach, N.J. A necropsy determined the young male was struck at least twice by a vessel, suffering wounds from propellers and skegs.

A close inshore encounter in late May on New Jersey’s Navesink River resulted in a powerboat bumping over a humpback whale – without serious injury – and social media posts from New Jersey and New York waters frequently depict boaters and anglers close to breaching whales feeding on plentiful schools of menhaden.

The NMFS Greater Atlantic regional office recently teamed up with On the Water Media LLC to produce a YouTube video stressing how to safely observe whales while maintaining the legally required distances – at least 100 feet for all whales, and 1,500 feet for right whales.

Two dead humpbacks were found on Long Island in mid-July, the latest in a series of U.S. Atlantic coast strandings now at 19 animals, compared to 26 dead during 2019, the East Hampton Star reported this week.

There may be more whales in New York waters this summer – with more potential for dangerous encounters with boats – because of abundant menhaden in the region and more boat traffic with people seeking outdoor recreation because of the covid-19 pandemic, Robert DiGiovanni, founder of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society whale rescue group, told the newspaper.

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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