PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (WWLP) – Right whales are the rarest of the large whales, and this particular season, they are getting close to the coast- something that is bringing about a warning for boaters.

These plankton-feeders are nearly extinct, and because there is a higher concentration of food by the coast, they are in danger of being struck by boats, and tangled-up in fishing gear. To make sure these gentle giants are safe, boaters are asked to stay at least 500 yards away from them.

22News traveled to Cape Cod to speak with Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo, a senior scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.  Mayo said that the number of whales being seen close to shore has been higher than ever.

“I would say that last four or five years of the 31 we have been studying them have been the highest number of right whales,” Mayo said.

Right whales were hunted extensively during the age of commercial whaling in the Atlantic, and their numbers have never recovered. The species’ reproduction rate is very slow.

Mayo said that of the 14 right whales they know of that have been born this year, five of them have come to Cape Cod Bay.

The season in which right whales are seen off the coast of Cape Cod lasts from mid-winter until early May.

22News Storm Team Meteorologist Jennifer Pagliei is in Provincetown, and will be taking a closer look at the peril faced by right whales on 22News tonight starting at 5:00.