There are a lot of strange things in the waters surrounding New York City, but one thing you might not expect is a humpback whale.

That’s changed this year, though. The Wildlife Conservation Society photographed this humpback whale feeding yesterday less than six miles from New York City, and at least 52 whale sightings have been reported in the New York area this summer. That’s almost double from two years ago.

Why the sudden resurgence of this enormous mammal?

Many believe it’s a sign that the waters surrounding our city are finally getting clean, encouraging huge rises in the populations of fish which the whales eat.

“We’ve seen more and more whales every year because the return of the menhaden. Menhaden is their prey fish and they feed on these animals,” says Paul Sieswerda, head of Gotham Whale, a citizen science group tracking marine mammals.

WCS’s New York Seascape program is one of several efforts to restore healthy populations of these species and protect New York marine waters.

Not to be outdone, shark sightings are also up this year.

A humpback whale with New York City in the distance, on July 18, 2014. Photo credit: Ken Stein
  • KKF