ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) – There’s a monster lurking off the coast of New York.

Blue whales have been positively identified by their telltale sounds for the first time in New York coastal waters by experts at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s Bioacoustics Research Program, which studies the communication of birds, whales, elephants, frogs and many other animals.

The discovery will guide conservation decisions, help protect the endangered animals from ship collisions and reduce noises that interfere with their communication, said Christopher Clark, director of the program.

A blue whale was recorded about 70 miles off Long Island in January, and a second one was recorded farther away.

Blue whales wander all the world’s oceans but normally are found in much deeper water hundreds of miles offshore, Clark said. Further studies should reveal whether this was a rare event or whether blue whales are more common in the area than had been believed, he said.

“This opens a whole new universe of opportunities for all of us to learn more about and appreciate these species and the vitality of New York’s marine environment,” Clark said.

When speeded up 10 to 20 times, recordings of the whales’ vocalizations sound like low moans, clicks and purrs. At normal speed, they’re too low for humans to hear.

Blue whales – among the largest animals that have ever lived, at more than 100 feet long and nearly 200 tons – were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until 1966, when the international community protected them. It is unknown how many blue whales exist today, but estimates range from 1,000 to 2,000, Clark said.

The findings will let the Department of Environmental Conservation and its partners develop management plans to protect “these magnificent creatures,” said Commissioner Pete Grannis.

Cornell researchers had placed 10 recorders on buoys about 13 miles from New York Harbor and off the southern shore of Long Island to record the migration of right whales from the Florida coast to New England.

“I wasn’t expecting to hear a blue whale anywhere near this close,” Clark said.


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