Cleaner New York waterways are causing surge in beached whales

Cleaner waterways in New York City have attracted more sea life, including seals, dolphins, whales, and sharks in bigger numbers than seen in a century.

Sadly, many don’t survive the trip — there are also more mammals washing ashore or getting stranded.

Cases of beached whales have surged statewide, from 22 in 2009-2013 to 41 from 2014-2018, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows.

In the city, Breezy Point in Queens has become the top place for beached whales, with two dead humpbacks being discovered there in 2018, according to the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.

A third whale found last year was hauled off the beach in Jamaica Bay in September.

One whale got stranded in New York state this year: a dead, 37-foot humpback discovered last Sunday in Westhampton.

But luckily, healthy whales are also being spotted in larger numbers in New York City’s ocean waters, according to Gotham Whale, which operates whale-watching tours.

The company recorded 167 whale sightings while cruising the Rockaways last year, compared with 105 in 2014, Gotham Whale’s Paul Sieswerda said.

Rescuers who take in seals, which are often found alive because they can live longer out of water than dolphins and whales, are working overtime to save pups in distress, according to rescuer Maxine Montello of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

The group recorded 872 calls from concerned beachgoers about stranded seals in April this year, up from 465 in April 2018, according to rescuer Maxine Montello.

“Any predator that is feeding off these seals may be coming closer,” she warned.

Evidence indicates they are: Two children got bit in separate shark attacks on Fire Island last year, the first in 70 years in New York state.

Biologists credit the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act passed in 1972 with helping replenish the seal, dolphin and whale stock, in addition to less sewage being dumped into New York Harbor.

Before the law prohibiting hunting of marine mammals, “there were bounties on their heads,” said Arthur Kopelman, of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island.

Kopelman also credited the state’s programs to restore menhaden, “a fish whose population recovery has been instrumental” in attracting more dolphins, seals, whales, and sharks, the Department of Environmental Conservation said in April.

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