Climate change impacting habitat of large whales

Posted 6/21/22

New research finds climate change is having an impact on how large whale species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, use habitats in the warming Gulf of Maine, showing …

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Climate change impacting habitat of large whales


New research finds climate change is having an impact on how large whale species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, use habitats in the warming Gulf of Maine, showing that right whales’ use of Cape Cod Bay has shifted significantly.

The study illustrates the need for adjustments in protective measures for threatened and endangered whales.  Measures have been taken by the State of Massachusetts to avoid whale line entanglements in traditional lobster pots, fish traps and other fixed fishing gear.  Enhanced measures are needed to avoid entanglement wherever the whales frequent.

Using more than 20 years of data, the scientists measured shifts in whale habitat use in Cape Cod Bay, evaluating trends in peak use for North Atlantic right whales, humpback whales, and fin whales.

The study found that peak use of Cape Cod Bay had shifted almost three weeks later for right whales and humpback whales. Changes in the timing of whale habitat use were related to when spring starts, which has been changing as a result of climate change.

The study suggested that highly migratory marine mammals can and do adapt the timing of their habitat use in response to climate-driven changes in their environment, with results showing increased habitat use by right whales in Cape Cod Bay from February to May, with greatest increases in April and May.

The study, led by the New England Aquarium and including researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the USGS Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, the Center for Coastal Studies, UCLA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Canadian Whale Institute was published June 7 in the journal Global Change Biology at .

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass and bluefish.   East End Eddie Doherty, said, “A school of good sized striped bass entered the Cape Cod Canal chasing bunker on a midafternoon east tide. The few guys who were there did very well at all levels of the water column with one surfcaster reeling in seven fish in an hour that were all over 30 pounds, each on a large white magic swimmer.” 

Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “Monday Capt. Mike Littlefield of Archangel Charters, Newport, caught a 55 pound striped bass.” 

Henault continued, “The bass bite in the Providence River is great.”

Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box, Warwick, said, “Fishing for striped bass and bluefish for customers has been outstanding.  From the Providence River and down anglers are catching nice slot size fish in the 30” and 32” range with poggies, trolling umbrella rigs and tube & worm.  And the bluefish are great too with 30” fish often being caught.”

John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, East Providence said, “I have not seen the striped bass bite this good in terms of size of fish and numbers in many years. Maybe the conservation measures are working.  Customers are catching slot size fish (28” to less than 35”) from Crescent Park all the way up to the Hurricane Barrier in Providence.  Anglers are catching them from shore at Sabin Point and Kettle Point, East Providence and by boat using Atlantic menhaden.  And one customer caught over 40 fish trolling tube & worm.”

Declan O’Donnell of Misquamicut Bait & Tackle, Charlestown, said, “The salt ponds continue to hold good numbers of mostly small fish which are a blast to catch of light tackle and fly-fishing outfits. Some anglers have been having good luck catching slot fish by casting unweighted eels in the pond during the evening. The breachways and beaches are producing a mix of sizes with plenty of slot and above slot fish being caught. Out at Block, some really nice sized fish have been reported from the ledge (surprise surprise). There are still bluefish mixed in with the bass both locally and out at the island.”

Summer flounder/black sea bass/scup.  John Littlefield from Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “Everyone is targeting striped bass but we have had a few customers pick up keeper fluke in the Warwick Light areas.  And the scup bite has improved with few black sea bass keepers being caught from shore at Colt State Park.” 

“The scup have been huge.  I have seen anglers with 19” scup caught in the Bay.” said Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box.

Declan O’Donnell of Misquamicut Bait & Tackle, said, “Fluke fishing has been slowly improving. A lot of shorts, my suggestion is to move away from the fleet and try bigger baits to weed out the smaller fish. Black seabass have been on the small side locally with some larger fish out around the Block Island. This bite should only pick up from here. Scup are moving in pretty thick and can be caught from both shore and boat.” Anglers are reminded that the minimum size for black sea bass is now 16”.

Freshwater fishing for largemouth bass has been good.  “I had three young men buy shiners to target bass at Roger Williams Park this morning (Monday).” said Littlefield of Archie’s Bait. 

Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box, said, “Fishing for largemouth has been good. One customer caught a 4 pound largemouth during a tournament at Indian Lake, South Kingstown.  And the pike bite has been good at Little Pond behind Warwick Vets.”

Editor’s Note:
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to or visit

No Fluke, fishing


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