Marine officials step up patrols off Plymouth to keep whales, boaters safe

PLYMOUTH – Boaters will be seeing more patrols in the waters off Plymouth this weekend with interest in a group of humpback whales that have been feeding in recent weeks. 

We went in search of the three now infamous juveniles with Massachusetts Environmental Police, but the whales weren’t making themselves known to us.

It’s just that kind of interest and some recent close encounters that have local, state and federal agencies joining forces to get the word out about safety, especially with a harbor full of recreational boaters and more expected this weekend. 

One video went viral showing a whale breaching and landing on the bow of a boat. “If you know whales are in the area slow your boat down to give you time to react if a whale comes up in front of you,” said Chad Hunter, Plymouth harbormaster. 

The whales are coming in for an abundance of baitfish that’s off the waters right now, competing with fishermen to get their fill. “Stripers feed on pogies, whales feed on pogies, it’s a food web on display in front of you,” said Hunter. 

“It’s like taking a whale watch with no need to go anywhere in our backyard, it’s pretty awesome,” said John Robillard who is renting a home in the area. 

Environmental Police will be among the agencies out in force making sure boaters are keeping their distance, at least 100 feet, and asking boaters to put their vessels in neutral until the whales swim away. 

“It’s unusual so we get a lot more folks that haven’t done this before and don’t know how to do it properly,” said fisherman Mark Driscoll. 

The officers are paying close attention to the whales, but the amazing creatures aren’t doing the same. 

“They’re not paying attention to anything that may be around them other than the food,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

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