Minutes away from Manhattan, a humpback whale was captured in a photo as it tried to swallow as many fish as possible in a dramatic feeding frenzy.

The image, snapped by Julie Larsen Maher of the Wildlife Conservation Society, is a reminder of how important the waters off of New York are for marine mammals and other sea life.

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“Nothing can prepare you for walking along the shore and spotting the great leap and surge of a humpback whale in the distance,” journalist Dave Taft wrote in a piece for the New York Times. “The magical moment is yours alone. The Atlantic knows how to keep its secrets.”

Taft reminds that it’s ironic such a large beast is forever left off of lists naming NYC’s native mammals.

As he points out, “Humpback whales are some of the largest mammals in the world. In fact, they are among the largest animals ever to grace the planet.”

According to NOAA, the whales can grow to 60 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons.

Maher spotted this particular humpback whale in an area called New York Bight, which extends northeasterly from Cape May Inlet in New Jersey to Montauk Point on the eastern tip of Long Island.

She and her colleagues mention that other whale species, along with dolphins, sharks, numerous types of fish and seabirds, all use this near-urban area. It serves as a feeding ground, nursery and migratory corridor.

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WCS’s New York Seascape program is working to restore healthy populations of humpback whales and the other species, and to protect New York marine waters. As this photo illustrates, the waters are not only important to the area’s economic and cultural vitality, but they are also vital to the well-being and survival of marine mammals.

If you happen to be in the area or are planning a visit soon, check out one of the many whale watch cruises. Passengers on boats leaving from places like Breezy Point in Queens have been encountering some spectacular sights on par with what Maher saw.

Photo: A humpback whale hunting fish. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher, Wildlife Conservation Society.