ESR 20:59-69 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00486

North Atlantic right whale distribution and seasonal occurrence in nearshore waters off New Jersey, USA, and implications for management

Amy D. Whitt*, Kathleen Dudzinski, Jennifer R. Laliberté

Geo-Marine, Inc., 2201 K Avenue, Suite A2, Plano, Texas 75074, USA

ABSTRACT: The presence of endangered North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA is not well understood. Adequate protection of right whales in the face of plans to develop offshore renewable energy requires more information about this species’ distribution and occurrence in this region. We present findings from the first year-round study dedicated to marine mammals in New Jersey’s nearshore waters using line transect surveys and passive acoustic monitoring. Four groups of right whales, including a cow-calf pair, were sighted. Right whales were detected acoustically during all seasons. Sightings of females and subsequent confirmations of these same individuals in the calving grounds a month or less later illustrate that these waters are part of this species’ migratory corridor. Observations of skim-feeding behavior suggest that feeding may also occur in areas farther south than the main feeding grounds. Based on the year-round occurrence of right whales off New Jersey, we recommend that presumed seasonal migratory patterns not be used alone to determine the timing of construction activities or monitoring/mitigation efforts for offshore development. Our results also provide support for the expansion of existing critical habitat to include nearshore waters of the mid-Atlantic.


KEY WORDS: Eubalaena glacialis · North Atlantic right whale · Seasonality · Distribution · Conservation · Passive acoustic monitoring · Surveys


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Cite this article as: Whitt AD, Dudzinski K, Laliberté JR (2013) North Atlantic right whale distribution and seasonal occurrence in nearshore waters off New Jersey, USA, and implications for management. Endang Species Res 20:59-69. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00486

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