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Critters of New York

Humpback Whales Are Having Too Much Fun in NYC

As sharks and humans are having a tough time in the city’s waters, the whales are going off.

1:22 PM EDT on August 15, 2022

Todd Cravens/Unsplash

With cleaner water pouring into New York Harbor, and a generally improved coastline ecosystem filled with delicious menhaden, humpback whales are hanging out near the city, feasting, and generally just getting wild. 

Check out the action from this weekend: 

Gotham Whales, a research and advocacy group based in Staten Island that tracks and analyzes sightings of humpback whales in the waters near New York City, has been posting photos and video from a spectacular whale-watching year, with whales and dolphins popping up near whale-watching ships, silhouetted by the city’s skyline in the background.

While it isn’t rare for humpback whales to be near the city, their population has been on the rise, and what was once a lucky occurrence during summer months is becoming a given—if you’re on a boat in the New York Bight, you’ll likely see a whale in the ocean near New York Harbor, perhaps even casually leaping into the air. A recent study published with the data collected by Gotham Whales shows that the animals are hanging around the city longer in the summertime—their average trip is now a little more than 37 days—likely because there's more food here.

Look at this fluke/fin combo!

Whales are almost certainly having more fun than the much-maligned shark (in search of the very same feeding grounds and improved water quality as the whales), who is the target of beach closures, helicopter patrols, and wrestling matches

It's also been hard as hell for human New Yorkers to take a dip this summer, between shark-related beach closures and construction-related beach closures, or bacteria-related beach closures and a lifeguard shortage, which has led to pool closures

And when you do try to get into the water on a boiling hot day, you still run the risk of the Parks police just going ahead and arresting you.

(It's not like other mammals looking for fun in the water are having a good time abroad, either—RIP Freya.)

So swim on, humpbacks! You might be the only ones actually enjoying life. And it clearly doesn’t hurt to be 60,000 pounds, because, c’mon, who’s going to try to stop you? The blade of a container ship? An industrial fishing net? A sandbar? They can try!

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