Researchers Spot 161 Whales, Including 7 Different Species, Off Mass Coast

It’s a whale of a tale and researchers have the pictures to prove it.

Researchers spotted 161 whales, comprising seven species, south of Martha's Vineyard in June 2024.

Researchers spotted 161 whales, comprising seven species, south of Martha's Vineyard in June 2024.

Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic

A recent aerial survey conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center came across a jaw-dropping 161 whales in the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and southeast of Nantucket.

The stunning display was comprised of seven different whale species, including 93 sei, 36 humpback, 21 fin, as well as minke, sperm, and North Atlantic right whales.

Researchers also spotted two Orcas, also known as killer whales, one of whom was seen chowing down on a tuna.

NOAA Fisheries’ New England/Mid-Atlantic region called it a “dazzling array of sightings” in a Facebook post Monday, June 10.

Scientists from New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life had previously spotted five right whales feeding in and near the shipping lanes south of Martha’s Vineyard since May. Among them was “Magic,” a 42-year-old female who has given birth to seven calves.

Also in May, aerial survey observers spotted 25 endangered sei whales feeding in the same area. The animals are typically seen in the spring when they feed on zooplankton.

According to researchers at New England Aquarium, winter and spring is when several species of endangered whales travel hundreds of miles to summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada. However, a large number are unaccounted for in Canadian waters during the summer.

“While right whales may have left Cape Cod Bay, these sightings serve as an important reminder that not all right whales migrate north in the summertime,” said Katherine McKenna, an assistant research scientist in the Anderson Cabot Center who was aboard a recent aerial survey flight.

“In fact, the three feeding right whales we spotted in May have never been documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where about 40 percent of the species goes to feed each summer.”

The aquarium’s aerial survey team has conducted 40 flights since December 2023, documenting 74 North Atlantic right whales along the way. Researchers estimate that the species has a population of less than 360.

You can find a map of the latest whale sightings here.

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