The Whale Heritage Site would include the entire Nantucket Historic District (Nantucket Island, Tuckernuck Island & Muskeget Island) to three nautical miles offshore. Whale Heritage Site status should include Nantucket Whale Watching grounds which extend from Nantucket’s Sankaty Lighthouse to Cape Cod’s Nausset Beach Light and seaward (east), to the shipping channel. This covers an area of approximately 600 square miles which adjoins NOAA’s recently expanded Critical Habitat for Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales. The above proposed boundaries link to already established Marine Protected Areas, as well as Hope Spots. They interlace conceptual ideas with recognized regulations and zones to help leverage future ocean protection schemes.
The site is home to critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, as well as Fin Whale, Sei Whale, Minke Whale, and Humpback Whale, and Sperm Whale. Small Cetaceans include Harbor Porpoise, Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, Common Dolphin, and Long-finned Pilot whales. Nantucket waters also host numerous transient animals including Pygmy and Dwarf Sperm Whales, Risso’s Dolphin (all of which have stranded on our beaches), Orca and Bottlenose Dolphin.
The Eastern Corridor, which these whales navigate, is one of the busiest in the world. The entrance to Boston Harbor — over and around Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary — is monitored for speed and sound specifically due to Right Whale presence and behaviours. North Atlantic Right Whales have been seen in Cape & Island waters during all months of the year.
Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program (NMMCP) and UMASS Boston (UMB), in association with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are currently establishing Marine Mammal Rescue Nantucket (MMRACK), a Nantucket Island based organization dealing with cetacean & pinniped strandings. The Stranding Agreement held with NOAA, is a first in the nation collaboration of this type — based on the importance of Nantucket’s geographical location, NOAA’s stringent purview. This team of volunteers represents a cross section of Nantucket citizenry.
NMMCP, has operated Whale Information Stations for the past 18 years on the street during the summer tourist season to inform the public of current issues affecting cetaceans locally and worldwide. Shearwater Excursions Whale Watch provides trips to whaling grounds not visited by any other whale watch operators. http://shearwaterexcursions.com
NMMCP has engaged the public in facts about cetacean related issues, pinnipeds, balloon bans and more. http://www.sustainablenantucket.org/category/farmers-artisans-market/
The Maritime Festival celebrates the joy of living on an island experiencing time-honoured maritime activities. The Festival collaborates with many Nantucket non-profits to provide a wide range of free activities that appeal to all ages. NMMCP is a founding participant. http://www.nantucketshipwreck.org/nantucket-maritime-festival/about/
Annually, NMMCP reaches out to local schools and presents information to students in elementary and private school lectures. In collaboration with WDC, NMMCP biannually brings Delilah (the 40’ inflatable North Atlantic right whale) to the island. With Delilah, students at (4) Island schools learn about cetaceans and cetacean science. NMMCP also works within the community and with Municipal and State Governments to influence / change policy.
Motivations to become a WHS
Creating a Whale Heritage Site on Nantucket will bring full circle the history and culture of Nantucket’s ‘whale killing’ past to its contemporary ‘whale watching’ activities. “Today, the global transition from whaling to whale watching is nearly complete, and Nantucket, once a hub of American whaling, stands at the centre of a thriving ecotourism sector, devoted to seeing and experiencing whales in all of their majesty and wonder. There was a time when venturing out on a boat merely to see live whales would have seemed pointless, unless you were in the business of killing them for whale oil, HISTORICALLY one of the most practical and highly valued liquids known to humankind. Today, WATCHING whales is the point. Nantucket’s transformation reflects an emerging humane economy, one that celebrates our relationships with non-human animals and assigns a new and lasting value to them. Its unique heritage and its current stature as a destination for seeing whales make Nantucket a site of immense cultural significance.
Whale Heritage Site status will further enhance the understanding of, respect and protections for cetacean species on / in Nantucket’s land and marine environments. WHS status will leverage Ocean MPA regulations and IMMA Sanctuary features while creating an environment to use Nantucket’s legacy, affluence (influence) and international reputation to educate the Commons and Policy makers about 21st century issues confronting these charismatic megafauna. Like the animals themselves Whale Heritage Sites provide a tool for promoting a sustainable, healthy Ocean ecosystem. Nantucket is an international tourism destination, and one of the highest rated island destinations in the Travel Industry http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/islands/ .
Whale Heritage Site status will create a strong ‘eco’ ethic influencing stakeholders through WHS messaging on sustainable Ocean practices via respectful human-cetacean interaction. Nantucket, falls under the MMPA 1972.
The Nantucket Historic District encompasses the entire island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. The District was expanded in 1975 to include the adjoining islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget (home to the largest Grey Seal rookery in the contiguous US). At over 30,000 acres, these islands comprise the largest conventional National Historic Landmark District by area in the contiguous United States. As the centre of the nineteenth-century whaling industry, Nantucket was also an important location for astronomy — a science crucial to the success of the sailors and their families as they ventured to the Pacific Ocean in search of whales. http://www.mariamitchell.org NHA Research Library http://www.nha.org/library/ — collections contain more than 5,000 volumes and 50,000 photographs Egan Maritime Institute http://www.eganmaritime.org — A non-profit organization devoted exclusively to celebrating the rich maritime history of Nantucket Island.
In January 2016, the Massachusetts Cultural Council voted unanimously to approve the Nantucket Cultural District. The Island’s economy is now based around tourism, related retail / service industries and real estate. A Whale Heritage Trail — from Gloucester, to Boston, to Plymouth, to Provincetown and New Bedford with Nantucket as the jewel in the crown is the next step. NMMCP has developed strong media relations with these entities. They have carried NMMCP programming including WHS material and have expressed interest in furthering this… an avenue of promotions and PR for WHS.