MONITORING TEAM URGES BOATERS AND ONLOOKERS TO STAY CLEAR OF THE
(05/41) TRENTON -- The New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP), the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) are urging
boaters and onlookers to keep a safe distance from a beluga whale
which has been plowing the waters of the Delaware River between
Burlington City and Trenton for the last two days.
"While we are extremely fortunate to have such a majestic
animal visit our waters, it is important that we take the proper
precautions to give this whale the best chance of returning safely
out to sea," said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell.
Boaters (including personal watercraft and kayakers) are being
advised to voluntarily honor a no wake zone in the Delaware River
from Burlington City north to Trenton Falls. State and federal
authorities also urge those who are seeking to observe the whale
to remain at least 150 feet away from the wild animal.
"We're concerned about public safety as well as enforcing
the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act," said Andrew Cohen,
top enforcement agent in the Northeast for NMFS. "People
need to stay at least 150 feet away from the whale and not do
anything that changes its natural behavior," said Cohen.
"If the whale looks like he is in trouble, is beached or
appears sick, we need to know so we can take immediate action
to help him," said Bob Schoelkopf, MMSC director.
The whale was initially spotted in the Lamberton Road area in
Trenton, New Jersey early Tuesday. Researchers in Canada have
identified the whale by an old healed scar on his back, and believe
the whale is a male named Helis. Helis was first sighted as an
adult in 1986 in the St. Lawrence River. He had been seen regularly
until 1994, then only twice in 2000 and 2003.
Beluga whales are protected under Federal law. Boaters and onlookers
are reminded that it is a violation of Federal law to try to feed,
capture, harm or harass a marine mammal. Violators may be subject
to penalties under Federal and state law. Officials from DEP's
Division of Fish and Wildlife will join state police and federal
authorities this weekend to monitor the whale and ensure his safe
return to sea.
Marina owners and boat launch operators are being asked to inform
boaters about the precautionary no wake zone and stay clear advisory.
The Beluga Monitoring Team encourages anyone who notices unusual
behavior in the whale to immediately contact the MMSC in Brigantine
at 609-266-0538, or NMFS enforcement at 800-853-1964.
For further information about the beluga whale, visit: