Whales in New York Harbor

They’re the largest animal to ever live on Earth, and for the first time researchers have confirmed that blue whales have been singing off the coast of Long Island. (These animals are almost unfathomably huge. If you’re in NYC sometime, check out the blue whale model suspended in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Ocean Life. It’s mind-blowing.).

The Cornell University Bioacoustics Research Program working with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation had placed underwater listening devices deep off the coast of Long Island to understand more about which whales and how many might be swimming along the shore. This blue whale was singing nearby in January 2009.

Christopher Clark, the head of the Cornell Bioacoustics Research Program, and his colleagues have been listening to whales in many different waters. In Massachusetts Bay, they’ve set up a listening network of floating buoys specifically designed for detecting endangered right whales in the harbor (There are less than 400 remaining North Atlantic right whales which migrate along the East Coast each year). That listening network is connected with a system for alerting ships to slow down for right whales in the area. (My article about the network appeared in Wildlife Conservation magazine in April).

While there’s excitement in hearing the sounds of these creatures in NY Harbor, there’s true environmental concern. Endangered and threatened whale species face a jungle of obstacles in these traffic-filled shipping lanes. In addition, budget cuts forced the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to pull their funding for the listening project– which also meant pulling the buoys– back in March, after just one year.

I have an email out, asking about whether they’ve found other funding. But I’m guessing we’ve lost our tiny window on that whale world, for now.

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4 thoughts on “Whales in New York Harbor”

  1. Oh, that must have made the researchers heartsick. I watched the video. Amazing. And the guy interviewed seemed so passionate and excited about the finding. I hope this stupid economy turns around soon. So much is being lost because of it.

    Thanks for calling my attention to this, Sarah.

    Jackie Dishner

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