Gray Whale Sighted Near New England 200 Years After Species Were Thought To Be Extinct In The Atlantic Ocean 

A gray whale has been confirmed by scientists to be seen near New England, two centuries after it was thought that the whale was extinct in the Atlantic Ocean. While this is an exciting discovery for science, experts are saying that it also illustrated the impact of climate change on sea life and their migration patterns. 

The gray whale was initially seen by members of the New England Aquarium in Boston while they were flying 30 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. They sighted the whale, which can weigh up to 60,000 pounds, on March 1st, according to the Guardian

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The gray whale typically lives in the northern Pacific Ocean, and seemingly vanished from the Atlantic ocean around the 18th century. Within the last 15 years, there have been about five potential observations of the whole in the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. 

The aquarium stated that the whale found this month was likely the same what that was spotted late last year in Florida. 

The aquarium researchers who recently found the whale near Massachusetts were skeptical after their initial observations, however, after circling the area for about 45 minutes, they were able to take more detailed pictures and confirm it was a gray whale. 

Orla O’Brien, an associate research scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, said that at first she “didn’t want to say out loud what it was, because it seemed crazy,” but was luckily proven to be right with ehr initial observations. 

While scientists are excited to see the gray whale in the Atlantic, they stated its presence likely has to do with the warming of the planet brought on by climate change. 

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The North-west Passage connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean in Canada. In recent years, during the summer the passage has lacked a presence of ice, which prevents animals like the gray whale from passing through. 

Now, scientists are predicting that gray whales are able to travel through the passage during the summer months, when they otherwise would typically be blocked from ice. 

According to O’Brien, the gray whale’s recent sighting near New England is “a reminder of how quickly marine species respond to climate change, given the chance.”

When commercial whaling was more common, gray whales were almost hunted to extinction. Luckily today, the gray whale population has recovered immensely, so much so that they’re considered to be a species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.” 

The organization also stated that the western population of gray whales that lives off Asia is still considered to be endangered. 

When compared to other, more commonly sighted, whales off the coast of New England, such as humpback whales, gray whales can be identified by their lack of dorsal fin and marks of spots or smears of color. Gray whales also make more gurgling, grunting, croaking noises, while humpback whales are known for their more haunting high pitched songs.