Subject: Whales location on Stellwagen Bank

Mike Williamson (
Wed, 28 May 1997 14:34:46 -0400 (EDT)

On Wed, 28 May 1997, bmc wrote:

>      I wrote you a letter asking about the humpback and the minke 
> population but I dont think I worded the question correctly please let me 
> be more specific..... We want to determine why some years humpback whales 
> are close to the Massachusetts shore. Then the next year finback whales 
> are close to shore and humpbacks cannot be found. The whales do not come 
> into the Skelwagon bay region. Each year,what determines which species 
> will be seen off shore? 
No one really knows why the movement of whales in the Mass, Bay/Stellwagen
Bank area is different, but it is assumed that it is based on food
abundance and location.  The whales come here to feed and they go where
the best feeding is.  For the past 4 years, previos to the 1996 season,
the sand eel popluation was low (a natural 10 to 13 year cycle so ther
fishermen say) so these whales spent more time offshore and on jeffrey's
Ledge.  Had you gone whale watching farther north out of Newburyport or
New Hampshire it would have increased your sightings.

In the past when sand eel populations were low, the zooplankton
populations were high so the right and sei whales were observed more
often.  In "normal" years the fish eating humpback, fin and minke whales
and dolphins are usually sighted on Stellwagen bank and Jeffrey's ledge
areas.  In a word--FOOD determines location.

Mike Williamson
PI WhaleNet
21 years in Mas. Bay