This month, researchers from the New England Aquarium spotted two blue whales in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Connecticut and about 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. The sea mountains, which span approximately 4,913 square miles, are an important biodiversity hotspot and were designated a marine national monument by President Obama in 2016 with help from the Mystic and New England aquariums–the first and only in the Atlantic.
Blue whales, the largest animals on the planet, are endangered; according to current estimates, there are only approximately 250 individuals left in the Atlantic. They are attracted to areas where deep canyons intersect with continental shelf edges. The first whale was spotted over the 4,000-ft Oceanographer Canyon, the deepest within the Northeast Canyons and national monument.
Reseachers counted 322 whales and dolphins within six hours of their aerial survey, including pilot, fin, sei, humpback, sperm and Sowerby’s beaked whales. The New England Aquarium has been conducting aerial surveys in this area for three years, but this was the first one ever conducted during the winter. Due to their critical population size, the blue whale spotting is considered important.
Read more about the survey here.