Whale Sightings In The Hudson River Could Speak To The Success Of Conservation Efforts

New York City is not typically home to whales, but sightings could be a good sign.

As a New York City resident, I can tell you that a humpback whale is one of the last things I'd ever expect to see in the Hudson river.

But last weekend, several Manhattan residents spotted and even photographed a humpback whale breaching the water. Experts say that it is a testament to successful conservation efforts in New York's most famous river, though it may not be all good for the humpback itself.

"The whale may have been chasing menhaden, one of its favorite foods," New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement to A Plus. "While the plentiful presence of menhaden is likely a sign of the improved health of the Hudson River, whales that leave their normal habitat are often unhealthy. "

In the last few decades, conservation efforts led by the Hudson River Estuary Program have done their best to clean up the river. Even General Electric, a company that, according to The New York Times, spent years spilling poisonous PCBs into the water, has been helping to drudge out those same toxins, revitalizing wildlife on the banks of the Hudson.

"It was general excitement and shock," Dr. Rachel Dubroff, 39, told The New York Times, "and how thrilling that a whale can be in the Hudson, based on what we see float by sometimes."

The Riverhead Foundation told A Plus that they still believe the whale is in the area of the George Washington Bridge, which is north of Manhattan. Coast Guard officials also told A Plus they were still issuing warnings to mariners to be careful boating in the river, as a breaching whale could damage a boat or cause an accident. 

For the humpback, the hope is the situation isn't dire. New York City residents will certainly welcome the guest, but they are encouraged to keep a distance and be as courteous to the whale as possible if they happen to be on the water.

For the city, the whale is a big reminder of the positive effects conservation and clean up efforts can have on a river that was once known for its pollution and toxicity.