More New York Boaters Seen Intentionally Harassing Whales
It is not a secret that whales are amongst the most visible marine life to return in abundance to New York waters. The massive beasts of the sea can be seen frequently from Manhattan to Montauk. However, a dark secret regarding the New York whale population is coming to light, people are intentionally chasing them and bumping them.
Whale watch businesses have thrived on the southern shores of Long Island. At the same time, recreational boats have pursued their own interactions resulting in collisions, unintentionally and intentionally.
Tracy Tullis of newsday.com talked about these boat collisions with Paul Sieswerda, executive director of Gotham Whale, a Staten Island-based research and advocacy group. Sieswerda said, “We see whales with propeller marks on them quite frequently.” According to sevenseasmedia.org, nearly 20,000 whales die each year because of collisions with ships and recreational water craft. That can be an alarming number. But, what is more disturbing is the increased number of intentional collisions and harassment of these marine mammals.
The report by Tullis in Newsday said that in August, a surveyor for an offshore wind energy company watched two recreational boaters pursuing a pair of fin whales off the South Shore of Long Island at high speed. The whales tried to get away but the boat chased them for hours. Apparently the surveyor reported the boats, saying that they nearly hit the whales at least three times.
In another incident reported, Arthur Kopelman, a marine biologist and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island told newsday.com that passengers aboard a whale watching vessel last summer witnessed a disturbing scene when a small boat pursued and hit a humpback whale. These incidents are not accidental and are extremely dangerous. Boaters that are caught harassing whales can pay over $34,000 in fines.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the government agency charged with enforcing the the marine mamal protection laws. NOAA patrols 4 million square miles of ocean and experts suspect most incidents are neither witnessed nor reported. According to www.fisheries.noaa.org, NOAA's records show five cases in which boaters were fined for harassing whales in 2022 and the first eight months of 2023.
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