Watch Out for Whales in New Jersey’s Waters

Humpback whales are the most common whale seen in New Jersey’s waters. The Atlantic Ocean humpback whale population has been increasing in recent years and they were federally delisted as Endangered in 2016. More humpback whales have been observed overwintering in our nearshore waters, likely due to factors related to climate change, increased food abundance, and improved water quality.

Whales face certain challenges along New Jersey’s coast including the potential for vessel strikes, stranding and gear entanglement. NJ Fish & Wildlife, in cooperation with NOAA and its stranding response partners, strives to respond to all whale stranding and mortality events. Completing a necropsy (animal autopsy) is a priority for each stranding to help determine cause of death. If you come across a stranded marine mammal in New Jersey, remain a safe and legal distance from the animal and immediately contact the NOAA Fisheries 24-hour Stranding Hotline at (866) 755-6622 to report its location.

NOAA Fisheries administers vessel speed reduction zones which include both mandatory (Seasonal Management Areas) and voluntary (Slow Zones) speed reduction areas for vessels to reduce the likelihood of deaths and serious injuries to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales that result from collisions with vessels. These slow zones also increase protection for all marine mammals. In the Seasonal Management Areas, all vessels 65 feet or longer must travel at 10 knots to reduce the threat of vessel collisions. Voluntary Slow Zones are triggered when 3 or more right whales are recorded in an area. In these areas, all vessels are encouraged to travel less than 10 knots. All boaters from Maine to Virginia, or interested parties, can sign up for email or text notifications about the latest Right Whale Slow Zones.

In July 2022, NOAA Fisheries proposed regulations that would broaden the requirements of mandatory speed reduction zones to further protect North Atlantic right whales. In addition to protecting North Atlantic right whales, Slow Zones provide added protection to all large whales and marine mammals.

The current Slow Zones and Dynamic Management Areas (DMAs) in effect:

SE Ocean City Slow Zone 030723

Keep your finger on the fishing industry pulse

The Definititive News Source of the Fishing & Marine Industry