Look Out for Whales in Massachusetts Waters

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NOAA Fisheries - New England - Mid Atlantic Bulletin

April 30, 2021

Look Out for Whales in Massachusetts Waters

Critically endangered  North Atlantic right whales are moving north and through waters surrounding Massachusetts. Along with entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with vessels are one of the biggest barriers to the species’ recovery.

With high right whale numbers in and around Cape Cod Bay, we’re asking all vessels to slow down to 10 knots or less. Collisions can be deadly for these whales, especially young calves traveling through these waters for the first time. Collisions are also dangerous for the vessels involved. Stay safe and help protect right whales by slowing down where right whales are found.

In some of these waters, speed restriction measures are in place and enforced. Learn more about federal and state speed restrictions and use the Whale Alert App to stay informed about right whale detections and Right Whale Slow Zones.


Active Seasonal Management Areas 

Seasonal management areas support high abundances of right whales  on an annual basis. Vessels 65 feet and larger in length are required by law to slow to 10 knots or less in these areas. All mariners are strongly recommended to avoid areas or slow speeds to 10 knots or less. Please note: There are regulatory requirements for vessels of all sizes in certain Massachusetts state waters.

Right whales are currently moving between and outside of these areas as well. We need your help to make sure these traveling whales are also kept safe. Pay attention and go slow (10 knots or less) in these waters and if you see a right whale stay back 500 Yards (1500 ft).

Mandatory speed restrictions of 10 knots or less (50 CFR 224.105) are in effect in the following areas:

Cape Cod Bay, January 1 - May 15

Off Race Point, March 1 - April 30

Great South Channel, April 1 - July 31

Find out more and get the coordinates for each mandatory slow speed zone.

If You See a Right Whale

Make sure you stay at least 500 yards (1,500 feet) away from right whales. Violations of this approach regulation can result in fines and other penalties. Report any right whale sightings to 866-755-6622 or radio the sighting coordinates to the U.S. Coast Guard so other mariners can be alerted to the animal’s presence.

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More Information

Recent right whale sightings

Find out more about our right whale conservation efforts and the researchers behind those efforts.

Download the Whale Alert app for iPad and iPhone

Acoustic detections in Cape Cod Bay and the Boston TSS, as well as other regions along the eastern seaboard.

Details and graphics of all vessel strike management zones currently in effect.

Reminder: Approaching a right whale closer than 500 yards is a violation of federal and state law. 

Stay Informed!

All boaters, or interested parties, can sign up for email notifications  and selecting "Right Whale Slow Zones" under the Regional New England/Mid-Atlantic subscription topics. You can also follow us on Facebook (@NOAAFisheriesNEMA) and Twitter (@NOAAFish_GARFO)  for announcements.

Watch our video on Right Whale Slow Zones.   


Media: Contact Allison Ferreira, Regional Office, 978-281-9103