Over the last couple of decades, due to high levels of pollution and overfishing, the waters surrounding New York City have become devoid of some of their original marine inhabitants, such as the humpback whale. But, thanks to successful environmental policies, the gorgeous mammals are back in the Big Apple.
Since 2011, when the nonprofit Gotham Whale recorded just five humpbacks, the number of cetaceans spotted off New York City has increased dramatically. By 2018, sightings had jumped to 272. This year promises to break that record, with 377 whales of different species already recorded in the waters around New York, most of the humpbacks.
As the enforcement of environmental laws has led to improved water quality and low levels of pollution, tiny ocean life-forms such as algae and zooplankton bounced back, providing a crucial food base for a resurgence in menhaden, a schooling fish favored by whales. Another reason for the return of the mammal is laws protecting the marine creatures from hunting and other human activities.
It’s unknown how many and what types of whales historically plied the waters off New York City, but scientists believe they were an important top predator, and their return to the biggest city on the Atlantic bodes well for the ocean’s long-term health.