After decades of absence, whales are returning to the waters around New York City. Competing whale watching cruises depart New York docks in the warmer months to see humpback, fin whales and dolphins, often within site of the city skyline. Some whales have been seen within 200 yards of shore and close to the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, one of the region’s busiest shipping channels. Pods of humpbanks whales have also returned to nearby Long Island Sound.
Unfortunately, not all whales arrive in the harbor alive. Last week, the carcass of a dead whale struck by a ship several days before in New Jersey resurfaced in the Hudson River. Kimberly Durham, the rescue program director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation on Long Island, reports that 2015 was the worst year yet for whale mortality in the area. “Nine dead whales, mostly humpbacks, washed up on Long Island beaches,” she said, “almost double the number in our previous peak year of 1991.” Most of the carcasses had wounds consistent with ship strikes. 2014 was almost as bad. In one month’s time in the spring of 2014, two dead whales were carried on the bows of ships arriving in New York’s upper harbor.