See breathtaking photos of humpback whales in front of the NYC skyline

August 11, 2023

Photo © Sarah Trabue, WCS Ocean Giants/Activities conducted pursuant to NMFS ESA/MMP Permit No. 27507 

With the waters around New York City both cleaner and warmer in recent years, whale and dolphin spottings are becoming more common. The Wildlife Conservation Society this week released photos showing humpback whales just a few miles off New York City’s coasts. The images were taken on Wednesday, August 2 on a clear day roughly five miles from Coney Island’s New York Aquarium with the Manhattan skyline visible in the background.

Photos © Sarah Trabue, WCS Ocean Giants/Activities conducted pursuant to NMFS ESA/MMP Permit No. 27507

As part of the WCS’s Ocean Giants Program, team members were on the water identifying individual whales, documenting their behavior, and gathering tissue samples to analyze. Their findings will help scientists learn more about NY and New Jersey’s whales and inform decisions to help reduce current and future impacts on the whale population.

Whales have been sited off of the city’s coats more frequently over the past few years, including species like humpback, fin, minke, and North Atlantic right whales. However, these species are more at risk of things like entanglement in fishing gear, getting struck by ships, their habitat getting altered, and being impacted by ocean noise.

The Ocean Giants team sets out onto the waters from late spring through fall and collects data on whales, including information on where they’ve been, what they’re doing, the environment in which they’re seen, and any photographs or evidence for identifying individual whales of prey. 

By taking note of the unique markings and shapes of the whale’s dorsal fins and tail flukes, WCS enters each animal into its Ocean Giants catalog. They also collect small samples of their skin and blubber for analyzing their genetics, as well as obtain environmental DNA, which is a non-invasive way to gain insightful data into the lives of whales, accordion to WCS’s website.

More information on the WCS’s findings on NYC’s whales can be found here.

Gotham Whale, a whale conservation and research group in NYC, offers whale- and dolphin-watching tours from April to November, departing Sheepshead Bay for the New York Harbor. Tickets start at $65 for adults for the 3.5-hour tour.


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