Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) sightings off the coast of Virginia

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Abstract

We report on two sightings of individual blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) off the coast of Virginia during marine mammal surveys. On 11 April 2018, during a vessel survey off the coast of Virginia, a single blue whale was observed approximately 100 km east-northeast of Virginia Beach. On 10 February 2019, another single blue whale was recorded during an aerial survey approximately 135 km east-southeast of Virginia Beach. These observations mark the first time this endangered species has been documented with photographs off the coast of Virginia, and represent the southernmost confirmed sightings in waters of the United States Atlantic Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). At the time of the vessel observation, numerous fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), and North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), were observed within the same approximately 8 km2 area as the blue whale. For the aerial sighting, the blue whale was seen feeding among at least 15 fin whales in an area approximately 4 km2. These sightings contribute to the small body of information existing for the late winter/early spring distribution of blue whales in waters of the western North Atlantic.

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Engelhaupt, D. T., Pusser, T., Aschettino, J. M., Engelhaupt, A. G., Cotter, M. P., Richlen, M. F., & Bell, J. T. (2020). Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) sightings off the coast of Virginia. Marine Biodiversity Records, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41200-020-00189-y

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