Whales in NYC area spark fascination, whale-watching tours: ‘Definitely a sight that never gets old’

NEW YORK The whales are back in our region in abundance, and they stay longer.

A recent study shows that some stay here until November.

CBS2’s Steve Overmyer spent a day whale watching aboard the American Princess, New York’s whale watching boat.

Captain Frank DeSantis leaves Sheepshead Bay in search of humpback whales in search of lunch.

“The beauty of it, and the fun of it, is that every trip is different. Some days we’re right by the beach, and some days we’re 10-12 miles offshore,” said DeSantis. “The whales determine that. We keep track of where our sightings have been, as well as where we see bait, in terms of what the whales have been feeding on.”

“It’s the humpback whale. It’s a species of baleen whale,” said Celia Ackerman of Gotham Whale.

“We’re looking for a splash, or spout, which would be a mist of water above the surface. Kind of like a cloud,” DeSantis said.

A few minutes into the journey, the captain finds one. It was about five miles from the coast, with Manhattan always in sight. If you’re in the right place at the right time, the calm of the ocean can be broken by something fascinating.

“It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It’s definitely a show that doesn’t get old,” DeSantis said.

Push feeding occurs when a whale forces its meal to the surface.

“Simply put, the big fish eats the little fish. That’s exactly what we see here. Lots of little fish and nutrient rich waters. Menhaden – AKA bunker. That’s what whales here mostly feed,” DeSantis said.

They winter in the Carolinas, where they live off their fat. It’s only in the spring that the whales come north to find their five-star meals – fine dining in New York.

“Scientists already know that several species of East Coast whales are also in the feeding grounds and are starting to change,” Ackerman said.

Conservation efforts that began in the 1970s are paying off. Our waters are full of nutrients again.

“Well, I think you could say we have a very healthy ecosystem. Very clean waters in the sense that there are lots of fish around,” DeSantis said.

The crew catalogs each sighting. Their identifying marks are on their tails.

“The pattern on the underside of the tail or fluke is unique to each whale. The same way no two people have the same set of fingerprints,” Ackerman said.

So far this year they have recorded about 250 different humpback whales. Some are even recognized.

“Especially when we see whales returning from previous seasons that we know. It’s like seeing an old friend again,” Ackerman said.

For four hours, Overmyer watched from a safe distance, never crossing paths with whales or dolphins, but for a fleeting moment, glimpsing their beauty.

A shared experience, creating an unforgettable memory.

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