Do I need to watch for whales when boating or sailing inshore?

Yes! Many large whale species are frequently seen close to shore and inshore waters.

Often called the “Urban Whale” because it travels close to shore, North Atlantic right whales, like other large whales such as humpback whales, minke whales and fin whales, often venture inshore to find food.  These whales can even be occasionally sighted from shore.  

Before leaving the dock, be aware of the animals you may encounter while on the water, take time to understand their behaviors and their migration patterns. Resources such as the WhaleAlert App, the See a Spout website and NOAA can provide you with information needed to safely navigate around whales and other large marine animals.  

Look out for areas where schools of fish may congregate, as these areas may attract feeding whales and other animals.  Watch for signs of the whales on the water surface such as bubbling water or spouts that look like puffs of water  in the air. Birds flocking feeding at the surface can also be signs that whales are nearby. Birds and whales often feed on the same food source.

Mariners should take caution when traveling both inshore, as well as offshore, to keep an eye out for whales.  Interactions with whales can cause costly damage to boats and potentially injure crew/passengers. Do not assume that whales are not there just because you have never seen a whale and stay close to shore.  Instead, educate yourself about whales and other marine animals, as you would any other marine hazard, for a safe day of boating on the water, for both you and the whales.

Written by Anne DiMonti, Audubon Society of Rhode Island – Updated 8/14/2023

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