PORTLAND, Maine - It's a feeding frenzy in the waters off New England. Researchers have been amazed by the number of whales - sometimes chowing down side-by-side with sharks - coming to feast.
"The amount of wildlife we've seen feeding has really been quite astounding," New England Aquarium associate scientist Orla O'Brien said in a statement. "From fin whales lunge feeding on krill, to right whales and basking sharks skim feeding side by side, to groups of humpbacks, pods of dolphins, and a blue whale—all brought here by a large amount of prey in the Gulf of Maine."
The aquarium's aerial survey team has seen a "high level of whale activity" off the coast of Maine this fall, including a 49-year-old North Atlantic right whale named Mohawk feeding with a group of sharks about 35 miles southeast of Portland last week.
Hours earlier, they spotted right whale Pediddle and her 10-month-old calf feeding. The calf, Pediddle's ninth documented offspring, was seen in the southeast back in January.
"Other research groups have detected the wide-ranging presence of right whales in Gulf of Maine waters over the past month, including a second mother-calf pair and multiple acoustic detections," the aquarium said.
Right whales are a critically endangered species
The critically endangered right whales have been spotted from Newfoundland to New Jersey in the past month. There are believed to be just 350 left in the world - and federal ocean regulators said this summer that the populationthan previously thought.
"It was incredible to watch these right whales feeding at the surface, especially Pediddle's calf learning to feed alongside its mother," said assistant scientist Katherine McKenna, who took the photos. "Right whale mothers and their calves are vital to the recovery of this critically endangered species, and it is important to ensure they are protected from threats throughout their range."
More whale sightings off Maine
Over the course of seven flights over the Gulf of Maine, scientists have reported 88 humpback and 121 endangered fin whale sightings.
They also saw an endangered blue whale - the biggest animal on the planet - this week 25 miles south of Boothbay.
Back in August, a group of humpback whales were seenoff Martha's Vineyard.
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