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Humpbacks Are Returning to NYC Waters, and There's a Lot of Them

Dec 12, 2014 06:31 PM EST

Whale watchers have spotted a stunning number of humpback whales in New York waters recently, especially around the Rockaway peninsula, part of New York's borough of Queens. More than a hundred of the massive and majestic beasts have been sighted so far this year, marking what may be the largest resurgence of whales the region has ever seen.

New York waters have always been home to the endangered humpback whale, which will occasionally show up along the Big Apple's coasts to give tourists a look at their massive tails and iconic ridged backs.

However, according to Gotham Whale, an organization which documents the number of visiting migratory whales in the area, sightings usually number around no more than 15 individual humpbacks in a year. Now, the organization is saying that 2014 saw a stunning 106 humpback whales - a giant spike in the local population which continues what is looking to be an encouraging trend. Last year, Gotham Whale noted 33 individual whales in NY waters.

"It is truly remarkable, within miles of the Empire State Building, to have one of the largest and most charismatic species ever to be on this planet," Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Ocean Giants program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, recently told BBC News, who first reported about this remarkable trend.

Rosenbaum told BBC that he suspects more of the endangered whales are seen in NY waters because of a shift in their migration and feeding habits, not a because of a spike in overall populations.

However, what could be causing this change remains unclear.

Paul Sieswerda, the founder of Gotham Whale, suggests another theory.

"I think it all begins with cleaner water," he told The Associated Press (AP), citing the success of New York cleanup initiatives.

With whaling long gone from NY shores, humpbacks may have wanted to come back for a while now, he said, but poor living conditions discouraged most pods. With regions like the Hudson River in better condition than they have been in decades, a homecoming may finally be at hand.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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