The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking boaters to be on the lookout for humpback whales in the Long Island Sound, according to a press release.
There have been recent sightings of humpback whales feeding on small fish, possibly menhaden, in the western portion of Long Island Sound, NOAA officials said.
Humpback whales are about 60 feet and weigh nearly 40 tons.
The federal agency is asking boaters to follow safety viewing guidelines, which includes staying 100 feet away from whales.
“Humpbacks create bubble clouds to corral their prey and then lunge through the center to swallow the small fish,” according to the NOAA press release. “Fishermen or boaters in these bubble patches run the risk of colliding with a massive whale as it rapidly approaches the surface.”
All whales in U.S. waters are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal for people to harm, injure, kill, chase or harass them, according to the press release. Harassment includes any activity that results in changes to the whales’ natural behaviors, such as feeding.
Penalties for Marine Mammal Protection Act violations are fines of up to $20,000 and up to one year in prison.
“In addition to keeping a sharp lookout, we also ask that — should the whales approach your boat — you put your boat in neutral until they have passed safely,” Mendy Garron, a NOAA spokesperson, said in a press release. “Also, please report any sightings. Locating the whales will help us keep them safe.”
To report a sighting, contact the NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Stranding and Entanglement Hotline at 866-755-NOAA (6622) or the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation’s stranding hotline at 631-369-9829.
In Connecticut waters, contact the Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Hotline at 860-572-5955 ext. 107.
To report harassment, contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.
Top file photo credit: NOAA