An endangered North Atlantic right whale has been swimming off the coast of York County — a rare sighting of the giant mammal at a time when its population may be headed toward extinction.
The whale has been seen swimming — and spouting — off Cape Neddick, Ogunquit, and Wells over the past few days. Tony LaCasse, a spokesman at the New England Aquarium, says right whales historically have spent time in the spring in eastern Cape Cod Bay, but this year have been showing up closer to the mainland shore — including in the Marblehead, Massachusetts, area.
“Usually they disperse pretty widely throughout the Gulf of Maine,” he says. “In this case that distance from Marblehead up to the Ogunquit-Wells area is not far on the water. We’ve probably got some animals that are up there in search a nice line of animal plankton that’s probably not in too deep water.”
There are only about 450 right whales left on the planet, and there are several pending lawsuits that are calling for more protections. That could include new restrictions on Maine’s lobster fishing industry, because right whales are susceptible to entanglement with fishing gear.
Scientists can identify most of the individual right whales that are out there. Work is underway to identify the animal just sighted off Maine. And Wells police are warning boaters to stay clear of any whales they see.
This story was originally published May 14, 2018 at 3:53 p.m. ET.