John Chisholm has long enjoyed sitting at Manomet Point to catch a glimpse of the abundant marine wildlife just off the coast.
But these days, his peaceful gem of a viewing spot in Plymouth no longer feels quite so secret.
After a photograph of a whale breaching directly in front of a paddleboarder made headlines this week, dominating people’s social media feeds, residents and tourists have been flocking to the idyllic spot in droves.
“Everybody started hearing about [the photo] and racing down there to try to see the whales,” said Chisholm, a shark biologist who lives in the area and tweets pictures from his account, @MA_Sharks. “Which is great, because people get to see things.”
But it’s also led to some headaches for local officials and business owners, who say the increase in public interest has clogged roads and jammed the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.
In a tweet Friday, the Plymouth harbormaster even had to urge boaters hoping to get a front row seat to the whales’ recent feeding frenzy to be cautious of the animals, and not approach “closer than 100 yards.”
According to Chisholm and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a Plymouth-based nonprofit, humpback whales have been coming close to shore off Manomet Point to feed on an abundance of bait fish.
“Although not commonly seen this close to shore, humpback whales will follow their food to shallower waters,” the conservation group said.
Their proximity to the coastline has “brought locals and tourists to the shore in the hopes of catching a glimpse,” the group added, resulting in “some incredible photos and videos” that have been making the rounds online.
On Sunday, photographer Craig Picariello snapped an image of a whale breaching in front of Michael Manfredi, who was paddleboarding.
“I happened to get the right picture at the right time,” Picariello told the Globe. “When I got home and put them on the computer, I was like ‘Wow!’”
Images showing people close to the whales on the water have also popped up on Facebook pages like “All Things Plymouth” and “White Horse Beach Appreciation,” drawing more attention to the majestic creatures.
But back on land, the crowds at times have overwhelmed the area.
In photos posted by Chisholm, cars are seen packing a restaurant’s private parking lot as eager spectators look out at the water.
He said he was “shocked at how many people were already up there” Friday morning, showing up far earlier than they have in the past and making the scene “really kind of chaotic.”
“It’s crazy right now,” Chisholm said.
By the time Chisholm left on Friday, officers from the Plymouth Police Department were beginning to show up to disperse the crowds.
Plymouth police Captain Kevin Manuel said that there “has been a serious uptick in cars parking down and along Manomet Point” recently, to the point that’s been making it difficult for cars to get through.
The whole situation has left Frank Collins, co-founder of the Lobster Pound, a local fish market and restaurant nestled at the top of Manomet Point, feeling stressed.
He said despite what some people might think, the situation has been “bad for business.”
“Someone posts on Facebook, and then within a half-hour, everyone shows up,” said Collins, 83. “The whale watchers don’t even come in for water. They take up every parking space, so our customers have to fight for parking spaces.”
“I wish the whale watchers were as accommodating to us as we are to them,” he said.
Despite all of the commotion, wildlife experts are glad that people have been excited about Plymouth’s recent aquatic visitors.
“We love the enthusiasm that local residents are showing for these whales off our coast and want people to enjoy them while they are here,” Monica Pepe, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s safe boating policy manager, said in a statement. “But it’s important that they do it safely. The whales are moving sporadically while trying to catch fish, so boat operators in the area should be proactive.”
Chisholm joked with some photographers Friday about “no more sharing photos” online, he said. But he understands the draw of the crowds.
“It is an unbelievable sight to be able to watch from the land and see these humpback whales like that,” he said.