By Christie Duffy
A seal says hello to beach-goers in Long Beach Island this weekend. Swimming in the surf off the Jersey Shore.
Earlier that same morning, a whale surfacing in the same spot. Blowing his spout about 30 yards out from the beach.
Dolphins are often spotted down the shore but this Labor Day weekend dozens could be seen playing, flipping around and body-surfing together in towards the beach.
Marine Biologist Cindy Claus says it’s unusual for a seal to be seen on the beach this time of year.
“We typically see seals along the Jersey Shore more like in the winter time, like November through December,” said Claus.
She says that the fishing season this year has been excellent. Especially for bunker fish – which is the oily type of fish that these seals, the whale and the dolphins all love to eat.
“They’re seeing large schools of those animals around here and so that’s attracting the larger animals like the whales who have been commuting from the southern areas,” said Claus.
She says the whales are migrating from their mating ground in the Caribbean to their feeding ground near Cape Cod. Much like how we are all heading home from the beach and back to school and work after the long Labor Day weekend. Claus says the whales are heading north for cooler waters, but they’ve stopped here for the bunker plenty.
“The whales– that’s pretty atypical I think to see so many of them. I think that part of it could be that people have so many cell phones. They’re going to the beach and now they’re recording it and now other people are going and looking as well,” said Claus.
She also says that the ocean environment close to shore is much cleaner than in decades past. With more regulations in place to protect the water and the marine life.
This summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a study on their policy to educate mariners. A big problem – especially in the Atlantic – is whale strikes. Our water are home to one of the most endangered whale species – the right whale. By educating ships to slow down where the whales swim – NOAA says death and injury to the whales is being avoided.
Local police on Long Beach Island have also issued an advisory that visitors keep clear of the marine life they see at the beach. harassing or getting too close could also mean a fine.