Baby Beluga Whales Make Big Splash Off Long Island

OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The rare sightings of baby beluga whales off the coast of Long Island is giving boaters, spectators and scientists a thrill.

Since Friday, sightings abound of three whales in the shallow, calm Long Island Sound, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Erin Silva, of Oyster Bay. “It was like being in an aquarium when you were a little kid.”

The trio — all under 8 feet long — have been repeatedly spotted off Long Island’s North Shore. Mal Nathan, Port Washington bay constable, first spotted the mammals Friday morning. When he got close, he knew it was a rare find.

“On a scale of one to 10, it was definitely an 11,” Nathan said.

On Monday, they were seen frolicking between boats feet from the shore in Cold Spring Harbor.

The belugas at times have been too playful and curious for their own good. The town of North Hempstead provided a protective escort through the weekend with waters filled with boaters “just to make sure that nobody would accidentally speed through them and perhaps injure them,” Nathan said.

Matt Meyran, a Port Washington water taxi owner, was among those to have a close encounter.

“I patted the side of my boat,” he said. “I tapped it. The one whale turned around, came back towards me and lifted his head a little bit and looked up at me. So I was like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool.'”

So what’s the big deal?

It’s a long haul from the arctic beluga’s Canadian home. Marine mammal experts say they appear healthy, but they don’t know why they’ve roamed so far south.

“Enjoy from a distance our visitors,” said Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “But like I said, we’re monitoring them closely, but they seem to be doing pretty well.”

The experts say the whales are probably juveniles and, like all teenagers, you want to give them their space but not lose track of them.

Federal and state agencies are monitoring their movement.

If you spot the little white whales, let the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research know and keep a safe distance — at least 150 feet — to protect the belugas.

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