New York and New Jersey see surge in whale, dolphin, seal and shark numbers

• Humpbacks and great whites abundant off NY and NJ coast. Dolphins and seals are also on the rise.
• Cleaner waters believed responsible for rise in ocean giants

Humpback whales and great white sharks are surging in numbers in the waters around New York City this summer, in a wildlife bonanza that is delighting naturalists, environmentalists and fishermen – if not necessarily bathers.

Off New York and New Jersey, some of the largest creatures in the ocean are being spotted in greater abundance than has been the case for decades. Paul Sieswerda, head of the Gotham Whale volunteer marine wildlife tracking group, believes the increasing abundance of whales around the Big Apple is largely prompted by cleaner waters that have encouraged huge rises in the populations of fish which the whales eat.

Sieswerda takes boat tours to locations where giant humpback whales can be seen feeding – with the iconic Manhattan skyline in the background.

“I would say it’s only about four miles from the Statue of Liberty,” he told the Guardian.

Gotham Whale counted 29 whales, all humpbacks, in New York waters from the start of the feeding season in the spring to the end of July 2014, compared with 43 for the whole 2013 season, 25 in 2012 and five in 2011.

Whales and great white sharks are most commonly spotted off the Massachusetts and Maine coasts in summer and have been increasing there in recent years. But improved food supplies in the waters around New York and New Jersey appear to be attracting more sharks and whales to linger, instead of heading north for the summer feeding season.

From New Jersey to Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, fishermen have reported increased instances of seeing and reeling in great whites and other sharks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported a surge in numbers on the east coast but has yet to record detailed data. However, the agency’s most recent research, carried out off the California coast, showed great white numbers rising an estimated tenfold.

Dolphins and seals are also on the rise. Sieswerda personally monitors a colony of harbour seals near his home in the New York City borough of Staten Island, which have increased to around 66 this year from just 10 in 2006.

Joanna Walters, The Guardian Newspaper

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