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article imageHumpback whales return to New York City waters

By Karen Graham     Dec 10, 2014 in Environment
New York City - Imagine seeing one of the largest and most majestic creatures in the ocean within just a couple miles of the Empire State building? Whale sightings have become more frequent the last two years as Humpback whales return.
Humpback whales, wondrously huge, and iconic masters of the ocean's deep, have been making a historic comeback to the waters off the coast of New York. Environmentalists and tourists on whale-watching boats have spotted the endangered mammals in the Atlantic Ocean as close as a mile from Rockaway peninsula, part of the city's borough of Queens.
Cruises aboard the "The American Princess" allow curious whale-watchers a good chance at seeing the 56-foot (17m) "Gotham City monster," as the humpbacks are fondly called. In the past three years, sighting off the Rockaway peninsula and the New Jersey shore have been increasing, from 15 to 33 whales. But this year, the sighting jumped up to 87 Humpback whales.
Paul Sieswerda, is the founder of Gotham Whale, an organization that has been keeping records of whale sightings around New York City. "It was pretty slim pickings at first, actually," Sieswerda said. "We went on many cruises and had three sightings totaling five whales in 2011."
"It is truly remarkable, within miles of the Empire State Building, to have one of the largest and most charismatic species ever to be on this planet," said Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Ocean Giants program at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Naturalists have questioned why the whales have suddenly returned to New York's waters. Rosenbaum suggests it could be a shift in the whales habits more than an increase in their population. Another reason may be that the Hudson River is so much cleaner now, too. With the mouth of the harbor healthier, the population of menhaden, a popular food on the humpback's diet, have increased.
"One would like to think that some of this has been triggered by an improved environmental ethic," Rosenbaum said. "We have the clean air and clean water acts, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and associated state laws. It's hard to make the link for sure, but there's certainly been a behavioral change toward the natural environment."
Mr Rosenbaum said: "Having them here is truly remarkable and encouraging. I think it will help people in New York embrace the natural world and the marine environment and these iconic species."
Well done, New York.
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