ONSET — The Cape Cod Canal has reopened Monday after it was closed for 21 hours, due to critically endangered whales being spotted in and around the waterway — including in the Hog Island Channel off Onset.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which operates and maintains the canal — closed it to marine traffic just before noon on Sunday, after at least one North Atlantic right whale was seen, and reopened it at around 9 a.m. Monday.

Researchers believe there may be as few as 350 of these whales left in the world.

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the whales live and forage off the New England coast — but because their habitat is near major ports along the Atlantic, they suffer from high mortality due to fishing gear entanglements and boat collisions.

Right Whales Spotted Close To Shore On Cape Cod Bay
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Cape Cod Canal Park Ranger Samantha Gray said in a press conference Monday morning that a USACE patrol boat spotted one of the rare whales in the Hog Island Channel off the Onset coast at around 8:45 a.m. Sunday.

Another North Atlantic right whale was seen at around 11:30 a.m. near the east entrance of the canal in Cape Cod Bay during an aerial survey by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, Gray said.

USACE closed the canal to marine traffic just before noon on Sunday, while crews from multiple agencies — including state environmental police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and USACE — monitored the whales.

According to Gray, the Hog Island channel whale entered the canal in the early afternoon heading east and passed the Bourne Bridge and the herring run before turning back towards Onset.

It was last seen at around 9 p.m. Sunday passing Mass Maritime Academy, headed back into the Hog Island Channel.

Crews were not able to monitor the whale overnight because it was hard to see, according to Gray.

But the survey resumed at dawn with help from a state police Air Wing helicopter, and Gray said a spout was seen near Hog Island at around 6:45 a.m. Monday.

With no more sightings since then, Gray said, USACE reopened the canal to marine traffic at 9 a.m. Monday.

She noted that there were a few commercial units — vessels with tug boats — anchored offshore and waiting to enter the canal when it reopened to traffic.

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