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New England Aquarium releases aerial images of marine life off Cape Cod

Aerial images from the New England Aquarium feature hundreds of dolphins in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium on Monday released aerial images featuring an array of marine biodiversity in the Atlantic Ocean, about 150 miles off the shore of Cape Cod.

The photographs were made public a few days before a leading New England Aquarium marine conservationist is slated to brief Congress on the importance of ocean protections, officials said.

On April 21, researchers hovered above Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to capture the images, aquarium officials said Monday in a statement. Over the course of the five-hour flight, the team documented two endangered sperm whales, two fin whales, two True’s beaked whales, hundreds of dolphins, dozens of ocean sunfish, and several basking sharks.


The beaked whales were a particularly rare sighting, scientists said.

“These enigmatic deep divers spend relatively little time at the surface, and after we circled just twice to identify them, they disappeared,” said Orla O’Brien, an associate research scientist at the aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.

Two True's beaked whales were among the wildlife spotted by New England Aquarium scientists who surveyed the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument last month, officials said.New England Aquarium

The 5,000-square-mile monument includes three plunging underwater canyons and four extinct volcanoes, officials said. Dozens of species of coral thrive beneath the surface, which give way to “vibrant, deep-sea ecosystems,” the aquarium said. Former President Barack Obama designated the area a national monument in 2016.

On May 11, Associate Vice President of Ocean Conservation Science Jessica Redfern is set to brief Congress on the importance of funding for spaces like the monument, according to the aquarium.

Last month, the Cape Cod Canal was closed to accommodate a right whale mother and calf swimming in the waterway. The increased presence of the whales near the shore could be due to climate change, officials said.

“To achieve the goal of conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and water by 2030, it’s imperative that strong protections remain in place for areas like Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument,” Redfern said. “Protected waters are an important part of developing strategies for responsible ocean use and can help us understand and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”


New England Aquarium scientists captured two endangered sperm whales in aerial images.New England Aquarium

Kate Armanini can be reached at kate.armanini@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini.