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Scientists report high level of whale activity off Maine coast this fall

The New England Aquarium's aerial survey team spotted right whale "Pediddle" and her 10-month-old calf foraging in the Gulf of Maine.
Courtesy of the New England Aquarium, taken under National Marine Fisheries Service permit #25739
The New England Aquarium's aerial survey team spotted right whale "Pediddle" and her 10-month-old calf foraging in the Gulf of Maine.

Several North Atlantic right whales have been spotted in the Gulf of Maine in recent weeks, including a mother and her 10-month-old calf. The New England Aquarium said it also recently sighted a third right whale about 35 miles southeast of Portland.

The aquarium is reporting the appearance of dozens of humpback whales and endangered fin whales in the Gulf of Maine this fall, along with an endangered blue whale just south of Boothbay.

“The amount of wildlife we’ve seen feeding has really been quite astounding," Orla O'Brien, a scientist who leads the aerial survey team for the New England Aquarium, said in a statement. "From fin whales lunge feeding on krill, to right whales and basking sharks skim feeding side by side, to groups of humpbacks, pods of dolphins and a blue whale — all brought here by a large amount of prey in the Gulf of Maine."

The locations of critically endangered right whales are of interest to scientists, because warming waters in the northern Atlantic Ocean have changed the species' traditional distribution patterns.

Federal officials have implemented a voluntary slow zone for mariners east of Portland due to the presence of critically endangered right whales. The slow zone is in place through Nov. 28.

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