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Up to 70 North Atlantic right whales were spotted in Cape Cod Bay

A North Atlantic right whale is seen in 2018 feeding in Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. As many as 70 right whales were seen in the area on Friday.
Michael Dwyer
A North Atlantic right whale is seen in 2018 feeding in Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. As many as 70 right whales were seen in the area on Friday.

About one-fifth of the world's entire population of North Atlantic right whales were all spotted hanging out in Cape Cod, Mass., heading into the weekend.

Between 60 to 70 right whales, including a mother and calf, were seen feeding outside the east end of the Cape Cod Canal in the Cape Cod Bay on Friday, according to the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Scientists believe that fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species, remain.

The wildlife officials sent out two patrol vessels to protect the whales from boat traffic.

By Saturday, the whales had seemingly moved on. The MEP did not provide details about where they might have been headed.

"No right whales have been spotted in the vicinity of the Canal today," the officials said in an emailed statement.

The New England coast, a foraging area for the marine mammal, is one of the North Atlantic right whale's two critical habitats designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. The other critical region — where some right whales migrate in the fall for feeding, nursery and calving habitat — spans from coastal waters off of southeast North Carolina to northeast Florida.

Meanwhile, crews have been working to untangle a North Atlantic right whale wrapped in fishing rope in the Cape Cod Bay. A team from the nonprofit Center for Coastal Studies managed to remove 200 feet of rope from the whale, the center said on Friday, but the whale remains entangled. The rescue team is monitoring sea and weather conditions for another attempt to untangle the whale.

While right whale casualties are not well documented, entanglement in fishing gear is one of the greatest threats to the animal, according to NOAA, killing at least nine right whales since 2017.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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