Boaters urged to use caution after mother right whale, calf spotted in Cape Cod Bay

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — A mother and her calf became the first North Atlantic right whales of the season to arrive in the waters off Cape Cod over the weekend.

Porcia, a 21-year-old right whale, and her newborn calf were spotted in Cape Cod Bay on March 18, according to the Center for Coastal Studies. They were previously seen off the coast of Georgia in late December.

The North Atlantic right whale is critically endangered, with an estimated 340 animals remaining, and protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

That designation legally prohibits boats and aircraft from approaching within 500 yards of right whales. It also restricts vessel speeds in designated areas, including Cape Cod waters.

Typically, mother and calf pairs make the long trip from their calving grounds off the coast of Georgia and Florida and arrive in Cape Cod Bay in mid-March. Mother and calf pairs often linger in Cape Cod and Massachusetts bays, where they feed and rest, before continuing their migration north.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries places a seasonal 10-knot speed restriction in Cape Cod Bay for vessels less than 65 feet in length. That speed restriction is in place from March 1 through April 30 and can be extended if whales remain in the area.

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