The U.S. Coastguard transmitted Friday a warning to boaters near the George Washington Bridge to steer clear of a humpback whale spotted swimming up the Hudson River. These marine mammals can grow to as long as 16 meters in length and are rarely seen in New York City Harbor. Indeed, a local group that catalogs whales said it was the farthest north such an animal has been seen in the waterway in recent years.

The humpback whale was visible from the Staten Island Ferry, and helicopter footage showed the mammal breaching. The Palisades Interstate Parkway Police tweeted a photo of the whale Friday afternoon before the officers escorted it back toward New York Harbor shortly before 5:30 p.m., as reported by CBS New York.

A humpback whale was spotted swimming up the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge, the farthest north a whale has been seen in the waterway in recent memory. Image Credit: USA Today Network

“This is the first time it’s been documented and there’s no one else keeping these kinds of records,” declared Paul Sieswerda, founder of Gotham Whale Watch, as quoted by USA Today. This group of “citizen scientists” catalogs marine mammals in the state.

The Hudson is a very congested river, and Sieswerda was concerned that a ship could hurt the humpback whale. He said the group hoped the mammal was in good conditions.

More whales have been swimming around New York Harbor and off the Jersey Shore over the past few years, and conservationists believe the increase is due to cleaner waters, according to USA Today. They have explained that plankton has been flourishing closer to shore, which attracts small fish like menhaden. This fish serves as a delicious food source for whales.

Thousands of people have been drawn onto whale-watching boats to try to get a glimpse of the whales gliding through the ocean and authorities have had to warn boaters because the marine mammals might be coming too close to shore.

In 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and New York environmental officials alerted boaters to slow down and watch out for whales after a cruise ship dragged a large finback into the Hudson. Two other strikes occurred that year along the Eastern Seabord.

The humpback whale indirectly saved a man who jumped from the GWB

Police said a man jumped from the George Washington Bridge and fell into the river below when officers from the Westchester County Police Department’s Marine Unit was helping the whale Friday evening, according to CBS New York. Fortunately, they were able to see the man right in time to pull him aboard the patrol and perform CPR. The man, whose name has not been released, suffered cardiac arrest and the officers took him to a New Jersey hospital.

Source: USA Today