Are whales really that close to the beach in New Jersey?
Yesterday a whale capsized my friend's boat just off the beach at Seaside Park. The two men on board were tossed from the 20 foot recreational fishing vessel, shook up but not hurt. They were less than 500 yard off the beach, and yes they have been coming closer in recent years. That's thanks to regulations put in by the State of New Jersey that prohibited large commercial fishing boats that would suck up large quantities of bait fish in a few hours.
The bait fish are called "bunker", and oil fish used mostly for bait and fertilizer. When the out of town boats were chased offshore the bunker became more plentiful closer to the beach. Bigger fish feeding on the schools of bunker follow them wherever they go, and they come pretty close to the water's edge. I captured this video about two years ago fishing just off of Bay Head.
Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, said when a whale is feeding it has no consideration for a boat.
"They're feeding wherever they want and wherever the food is they come up from underneath. It's called lunge feeding or breaching and they don't think about 25 foot boats when they're about ten times heavier," Schoelkopf said.
Schoelkopf said there are "a multitude of whales" along the Jersey Shore and in the Sandy Hook Bay because it has an abundance of food and has become a popular area for feeding over the past five years.
"They spent most of the year down in the Carribbean where there's very little food and they live off their body fat. Now they have to replenish their body fat and fatten up," Schoelkopf.
Dan Alexander contributed to this story.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis' own.
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