Welcome to The Gam, the quarterly newsletter for Gotham Whale, where you’ll find news, information, and fun content relating to the whales of New York City!
Come Whale Watching With Us!
The 2021 Whale Watching season is off to a great start!
Sightings in our area have been fantastic lately, with lunge-feeding, breaching, and tail-slapping humpback whales, pods of active Atlantic bottlenose dolphins—including some very young calves—and even a few minke whales!
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins; photo credit: Celia Ackerman
Gotham Whale Lead Whale Researcher Danielle M. Brown was out with Jersey Shore Whale Watch and got some photos of a few finback whales last month, which is very exciting!
Finback whale; photo credit: Danielle M. Brown
We already have a handful of new whales in our area for the 2021 season, which is of course wonderful news. Even more importantly, we have a number of returning whales from previous years, including fan favorite “Jerry,” aka NYC0011, who is a regular visitor to our waters. Returning whales are important because it shows that they remember our area as being a place they can count on to find food.
Humpback whale lunge feeding; photo credit: Artie Raslich
There’s no time like the present to come out on a whale watch on board the American Princess! Afternoon cruises are 5 days a week, departing at noon Wednesdays through Sundays, and sunset cruises depart at 5pm on Thursdays and Saturdays.
To book a Whale and Dolphin Adventure Cruise, check out American Princess Cruises’ website. And follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for any updates, including announcements about special cruises like the all-day “Seafari,” the first of which is July 26th!
A message from our Director of Advocacy, Sarah Ryan Hudson, about the Oceans Based Climate Solutions Act.
For the past 6 years, Humpback whales along the Atlantic coast have perished at an alarming rate, causing NOAA to declare an Unusual Mortality Event in need of immediate response. Roughly half of the deceased whales showed evidence of human interaction through ship strike or entanglement. In June, Gotham Whale joined 140+ organizations in a letter to ask Congress to take action with the Oceans Based Climate Solutions Act (OBCSA) which was introduced in the House of Representatives on World Oceans Day 2021.
By reducing vessel speed to 10 knots or less, the lethality of a vessel strike is reduced by up to 90%. OBCSA will direct NOAA to take action to regulate ship speed, designate areas of importance to marine mammals where speed limits would be mandatory, and incentivize slower steaming in other areas to reduce air pollution, underwater noise, and ship strikes.
Humpback whale in front of large vessel; photo credit: Artie Raslich
The bill increases our ability to monitor whales and ships. Technologies including acoustic monitoring, autonomous vessels, and drones can be used to monitor large whales in near-real time. A pilot program will focus on protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale before being expanded to other whale species.
Vessels larger than 49 feet will be required to have Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and broadcast continuously while at sea. This will enable the U.S. to monitor compliance with environmental regulations. Pairing AIS with near-real time monitoring of large whales will provide alerts to vessels to reduce the risk of collision and entanglement.
Underwater noise can interfere with marine mammals’ ability to communicate, forage, and navigate. OBCSA will take steps to measure and reduce underwater noise. In addition to slowing or rerouting ships near important marine habitats, OBSCA aims to retrofit or build ships utilizing quieting technology.
Through a new competitive grant program, OBCSA will assist ports to minimize the impact of vessel traffic on marine mammals. Additionally, all ships calling at US ports will be required to self-report their greenhouse gas emissions. This transparency will enable researchers and policy makers to have a better understanding of the impact commercial shipping has on ocean warming, deoxygenation, and acidification.
This year, there are many exciting and vital legislative initiatives including the SAVE Right Whales Act, Forage Fish Conservation Act, and more. Your Gotham Whale advocacy team hopes to bring you information about upcoming bills or rulemakings in a format that is easy to digest and empowers you to be active in the lawmaking process.
Sarah Ryan Hudson, Esq
Meet Gotham Whale!
Artie Raslich is Gotham Whale’s official photographer.
Artie grew up on the water in Long Island, NY. He has been into photography since he was a kid, and grew serious about it in 2003, focusing on concert photography as well as surfing and sports photography. In September 2012 he saw a humpback whale off the beach and that’s where he found his real focus – photographing and documenting humpback whales in NYC and western Long Island. He volunteered his services for Gotham Whale, and has worked with them since then. In addition to being Gotham Whale’s official photographer, he is also the photo curator of the New York City Humpback Whale Catalog and manages GW’s Facebook page.
One of Artie’s favorite things to see out on the water is humpback whales lunge feeding. He says, “Seeing all the bunker fish flying all around the whale like an explosion just went off… it’s something to see and it’s what I love to photograph.”
Lunge feeding humpback whale; photo credit: Artie Raslich
Artie also loves going out on his own boat, the Ship of Fools. The boat is small and fast and low to the water, enabling him to get some incredible photographs. He’s had some amazing encounters with whales while on his boat. One of the most notable is from a few years ago, when he was watching two humpbacks slapping each other with their pectoral fins and then their tail flukes. Artie’s boat was out of gear, and the whales kept getting closer and closer to it, chasing and slapping each other. He finally had to bang on the hull, startling both whales, who quickly moved away to continue their game safely away from the boat. (What an experience that must have been!)
Breaching humpback whale in front of NYC skyline; photo credit: Artie Raslich
Artie’s spectacular photos have appeared in numerous media sites, including National Geographic, The New York Times, Newsday, The Guardian, Newsweek, The New York Post, and American Airlines’ American Way, among many others, and there was a piece on him in The New Yorker. You can find Artie’s photos for sale on his website. He also maintains a blog in which he describes the above encounter as well as many others. https://www.artieraslich.com/
Whales in the News!
Humpback Whales singing in our area!
A popular belief is that humpback whales are only in New York area waters to feed in the late spring, summer, and fall before returning to the warm waters of the Caribbean to breed and give birth. But the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recorded whales in our area during the winter of 2017-2018. And a recent study that analyzed underwater recordings from 2008-2009 in the New York Bight indicated that humpback whales were singing in our waters during the winter and spring. This data pre-dates the increased sightings of humpbacks in our area over the last decade or so, making it even more interesting. You can read more about it here, including the insights by Gotham Whale’s Executive Director Paul Sieswerda and lead whale researcher Danielle M. Brown.
Lobster Diver Swallowed by a Whale? (Spoiler alert: no, he wasn’t swallowed.)
A big headline last month was the story of a lobster diver in Cape Cod (or should we say lobstah divah?) who found himself engulfed by a feeding humpback whale. (That’ll wake you right up!) Many headlines implied that he was actually swallowed by the whale, but Dr. Joy Reidenberg, Scientific Advisor for Gotham Whale and a comparative anatomist with a focus on whales, debunks that idea in an interview with Salon.com.
Local High School Students Create Project About the Whales of NYC
Students at New York City’s renowned Stuyvesant High School produced a wonderful video on the Whales of NYC, featuring commentary by Gotham Whale’s Executive Director Paul Sieswerda and Naturalist and Research Associate Celia Ackerman.
The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52
The Loneliest Whale is a newly released documentary by filmmaker Joshua Zeman about his quest to find “52,” a whale whose call broadcasts at 52 Hertz and was first detected in 1989 by the U.S. Navy. No whale species was known to broadcast at that frequency, and the mysterious whale gained popularity in the last few years due to speculation that it was lonely because other whales were not able to hear its call. With the help of interested scientists from several disciplines, Zeman gathered enough data to put together a team for a seven-day expedition off California in an attempt to try to find this whale. I hadn’t known anything about “52” prior to seeing an ad for the movie, and I found this to be a compelling story about whales, conservation, and human interactions, and I definitely recommend it! -Beth A. Miller
Support Gotham Whale!
Gotham Whale is very grateful for the ongoing support of the volunteers and donors, whose generosity enables the organization to continue its important work to help protect the whales and dolphins of New York City.
If you are already a member of Gotham Whale, we thank you for your support and hope you will continue to renew your membership annually. If you aren’t yet a member, please check out the different levels of membership we offer and consider joining. And share the info with a friend who loves whales and dolphins!
Also, if you would like to support Gotham Whale and have something cool to wear, check out our Bonfire site, where you can order apparel with our logo!
Follow Gotham Whale to stay informed about all the latest news and updates on the Whales of NYC!
The next newsletter will be coming in October!
~Gotham Whale Team
Volume 2, Issue 3
Written and/or compiled by Beth Anne Miller for Gotham Whale
Breaching humpback whale drawing by Beth Anne Miller