Whales return to Long Island Sound after two-decade hiatus

In this Sept. 12, 2015 photo provided by Dan Lent, a humpback whale swims in Long Island Sound off the coast of Stamford, Conn. Biologists at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Conn., said whale sightings on the sound this year are the first in more than two decades. Experts said the whales apparently have been attracted by large schools of small fish, and they are imploring boaters to keep their distance.

Dan Lent via AP

HARTFORD, Conn. -- It was the summer of the whale this year on Long Island Sound, where fishermen and other boaters reveled in the return of the marine mammals after what appears to have been a two-decade hiatus.

The unexpected sightings began in May, when three belugas were spotted off Fairfield, Connecticut. A minke whale was seen off Norwalk later in May. And there have been several humpback sightings in the western part of the sound in recent weeks.

Joe Schnierlein, research and university liaison for The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, says it's the first time whales have been seen in the western part of the sound since 1993, when a 30-foot finback was spotted in New Haven Harbor.

Schnierlein believes the whales were attracted by a big increase in bait fish.