A humpback whale sighting in the Long Island Sound near Port Washington over the Labor Day weekend prompted experts to remind boaters to give the whale its space.
Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation biologists are monitoring the whale’s movements and urging the boating public to stay at least 150 feet away from the creature.
“They are federally protected, and interacting with them in any way falls under harassment,” said Rachel Bosworth, a spokeswoman for the group, which noted that such sightings are not unusual.
The whale appears to have first made news when it was spotted Aug. 30 in the Sound off Milford, Conn., more than 50 miles northeast of Port Washington, where boaters reported a similar sighting on Labor Day, Sept. 7.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Mark Tutino, who spotted the whale breaching last week, told News 12 Connecticut.
Humpback whales, among the largest mammal species, have a life span of 45-to-50 years, eating only krill, plankton and small fish. They have been protected worldwide since 1966 because of the decrease in their population. It is believed that there are only 30,000-40,000 humpback whales left, which is only 30 percent of their original population.
The humpback sighting isn’t the only whale reported in the Sound lately. A trio of Beluga whales was spotted in the waterway in May.
Marine biologists have been unable to perform a health assessment of the humpback whale because it is swimming freely, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have been notified.
Riverhead Foundation officials ask anyone who spots the whale to call them at 631-369-9829. Videos or photos may be sent to [email protected]