Lonely Planet Writer

Thanks to cleaner water, NYC is becoming a hotspot for whale-watching

The number of whales sighted off New York City has risen dramatically in recent years, a development which has signalled a win for environmentalists and for tourists who want to catch a dramatic glimpse at the beautiful creatures.

Humpback whales have become more common around New York. Photo by Artie Raslich/Getty

Local non-profit Gotham Whale, which studies and advocates for whales in New York City, has been counting sightings since 2010. In the first year they reported just five but in 2018 they confirmed an incredible 272 sightings, nearly all of which ave been humpback whales. The whales frequent the waters around the metropolis in the summer before moving to the warmer seas of the Caribbean for the winter period.

Paul L. Sieswerda, CEO of Gotham Whale, spoke to Lonely Planet and credited the recent environmental policies with the change. “It all comes together to make whales, dolphins and seals much more populous, their ranges are expanding back to where they used to be. They used to be around New York way back in the 1600s but humans have hunted them almost to extinction but they’re making a comeback.”

Humpback whale blows into the morning sunlight creating a rainbow of colors off of Rockaway Beach. Photo by Artie Raslich/Getty

And what about seeing the whales yourself? Gotham Whale partner with American Princess Cruises to sail out for whale-watching between May and November, using the cruise as a platform to identify the whales, helping their research and advocacy.

“Not too many people know about it”, Paul said, “and it’s nice to share the excitement about these whales coming back. We can see whales in the foreground and the skyline of Manhattan in the background. We’re seeing more and more whales each year so our success rate is very high. Our boat captain even coined the phrase that ‘Rockaway is the new Cape Cod’”.

The Whale Watching & Dolphin Cruises leave from Queens and you can learn more or book your place online.