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Whale breaches, lands on fishing boat off Plymouth, Massachusetts

By WCVB Staff

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    PLYMOUTH, Massachusetts (WCVB) — A whale struck a fishing boat off the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts, on Sunday in an area where whales have been spotted several times in the past week.

A viewer captured photos of the whale as it breached with several fishing boats nearby. The whale landed on one of the boats, causing the bow to dip down into the water.

Two people who were on the boat braced themselves as the boat tipped forward and back.

Plymouth officials posted a photo of the boat that showed the damage.

A harbormaster boat assigned to the area to watch for any potential violations of the Marine Mammal Act responded to check on the vessel occupants. The operator reported no injuries and no major damage that affected the seaworthiness of the boat, officials said.

“The Plymouth Harbormaster Department recommends a distance of at least 100 yards to minimize potential interactions with whales. This interaction, while rare, is a reminder that these interactions can be dangerous for both boaters and whales,” Plymouth officials posted on Facebook.

The Massachusetts Environmental Police are investigating the incident.

Whales feeding and breaching in the area have brought residents and tourists to the area in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the marine animals.

Most of the whales sighted have been humpback whales, which can measure up to 55 feet and weigh 40 tons, according to the Whale & Dolphin Conservation, a non-profit group dedicated to the conservation of whales.

Photos from other sightings show the whales “lunge feeding,” the group said, which is when the whales corral bait fish and lunge through to engulf a mouthful of fish and water.

Wildlife photographer Suzanne O’Shea said she had heard about the recent whale sightings. She said she grabbed her camera and headed for the coast Tuesday evening and again at daybreak on Wednesday morning.

She was there when a whale put on a show for a group of people onboard a small boat.

“When it breached, you just click and hope you get that picture,” O’Shea said. “I didn’t check right away because then you don’t if they’re going to breach again. So I checked a little while later. And I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I got the picture!'”

One week ago, a paddleboarder had a close encounter with a whale off Manomet.

“The thing comes out of the water, thing is like 25 feet in the air, there’s fish flying out of its mouth,” paddleboarder Michael Manfredi said. “It’s just amazing, it’s incredible. It’s just one of those moments you’ll never forget.”

The Whale & Dolphin Conservation said boaters should give whales a buffer zone.

“We love the enthusiasm that local residents are showing for these whales off our coast and want people to enjoy them while they are here, but it’s important that they do it safely. The whales are moving sporadically while trying to catch fish, so boat operators in the area should be proactive and make sure they are at least five boat lengths away,” said Monica Pepe, WDC’s Safe Boating Policy Manager.

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