Two Humpback Whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, have made local headlines this week, by entering waters popular with Humans on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The first was seen to in Boston Harbour, Massachusetts, on Saturday 3 August 2019, and has remained there for several days, feeding on fish and generally amazing Human users of the Harbour. Experts from the New England Aquarium Whale Watch team estimate that it is a male around 18 to 20 months old. Humpbacks were once common in Boston Harbour, but were almost wiped out by hunting in the early twentieth century. However, several have been seen feeding in the Harbour in the past decade, which the New England Aquarium report have all been young individuals that have not yet learnt to be cautious around Humans - Humpback Whales are no longer hunted commercially, but encounters with propeller driven boats can be painful and even dangerous to them.
A Humpback Whale in Boston Harbour on 6 August 2019. Boston Harbor Cruises.
The second Whale was spotted off the coast of Penzance in Cornwall, where it was feeding on Sand Eels. This Whale also seemed quite happy to approach tour boats in the area, suggesting that is is also unconcerned by Humans. As on the West Coast of America, Humpback Whales have been very rare in British waters for most of the past century, but sightings have become more common in the past decade, mostly off the west coast of Scotland, though sightings off Cornwall are also becoming more common.
Humpback Whales were nearly exterminated by commercial Whaling in the first part of the twentieth century. The species has been protected since 1946, and in recent years their population has appeared to be recovering in many areas, now being seen as being of Least Concern under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. The Whales appear to be doing well in the Atlantic Ocean, with close encounters between Whales and Humans becoming more common.
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