Whale spotted in New York’s East river thought to be a humpback

NYPD posts photo of whale swimming near mayors mansion, after another humpback took up residence in Hudson river last month

A large whale, believed to be a humpback, was spotted in the East river in New York City on Saturday.

The New York Police Departments special operations division posted a photo of the sighting on its Twitter account, with the message that even the wildlife want to ring in the new year in New York.

US coast guard petty officer Frank Iannazzo-Simmons told the Associated Press those in his office had not seen the whale, but said that based on the photos it appeared to be a humpback.

The whale was seen swimming along the shores of Manhattans Upper East Side, close to Gracie Mansion, the official residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Paul Sieswerda, a retired marine biologist who leads the New York-based volunteer marine wildlife tracking group Gotham Whale, told the Guardian: Its uncommon for whales to be around this late in the season, and even more unusual for them to be in the harbor.

Humpbacks would normally be heading for the warm waters of the Dominican Republic.

This has been an exceptional year for whale sightings in the harbor and in the waters off Long Island, Sieswerda said. The first sighting in the river came in April, and a humpback whale was spotted in the East river last month.

Another humpack took up residence in the Hudson river and was seen above the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York and New Jersey at the north-west tip of Manhattan. That whale became known as 0055 or Gotham.

We followed that whale for a number of days, said Sieswerda, 74, who was previously a curator at the New England and New York aquariums. It was last seen in early December in the ocean. Were quite sure that it was lunge-feeding on the menhaden.

There is no reason to think the New Years Eve whale is disorientated, Sieswerda said, as the population of menhaden, a bait fish, has been in increasing in recent years, bringing more whales into the area.

Gotham Whale has documented 20 individual whales in the city this year, bring the number documented since 2011 to 50.

We know that the menhaden population has increased and we think thats because the total allowable catch has been restricted, said Sieswerda.

Were working hard to convince the authorities to maintain that limit. Were encouraging people to support current limits on the menhaden catch.

NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops)

#Harbor spotted another whale in the E. River this morning right next to Gracie Mansion. Even the wildlife want to ring in #NYE2017 in #NYC pic.twitter.com/oQNbnGBirm

December 31, 2016

Whale sightings in and around New York trigger an automatic advisory from the US coast guard and a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) warning for local boat traffic to slow down.

Such a restriction was issued after the Gracie Mansion sighting, with Iannazzo-Simmons saying river users should let the whale be the whale.

Noaa whale-watching guidelines say no large whale should be intentionally approached within 100ft. By law, endangered North Atlantic right whales cannot be approached within 1,500ft.

It is illegal to interrupt any marine mammals natural behavior, the guidelines say. If your behavior changes their behavior, back away!

The East river where the likely humpback was spotted has shorelines in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. It is in fact not a river but a tidal salt estuary, connecting Upper New York Bay to the Long Island Sound.

Like the Hudson, it has become considerably cleaner in recent years, as the polluting effects of New Yorks industrial and maritime heyday have receded.

Two years ago, Sieswerda discussed with the Guardian increased sightings around New York City of whales and other large marine creatures, including seals and great white sharks.

The river used to bring nothing but pollution but in the last five years or so there is cleaner water, more nutrients and less garbage, he said, adding: My boat captain says New York is the new Cape Cod.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/31/humpback-whale-new-york-city-east-river