Rules have been created for shipping in the known Right whale habitat, but scientists are concerned that the whales may be moving into areas where there are no mitigation measures and ship strikes are more likely

Rules have been created to protect whales from shipping in the known Right whale habitat, but scientists are concerned that the whales may be moving into areas where there are no mitigation measures and ship strikes are more likely.
Photo Credit: Kara Mahoney Robinson/New England Aquarium)

Where have the whales gone, and why?

Researchers tracking the Atlantic Right whale have been somewhat concerned that the whales are not showing up in their usual summer feeding grounds in and around the northeastern US and eastern Canada.

They are now using sophisticated technology to try to find the whales in a project called WHaLE (Whales Habitat Listening Experiment).

Kimberley Davies (PhD) is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University, Halifax, and co-manager of  the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) WHaLE project.

Listen
Kimberley Davies (PhD) is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University, Halifax,
Kimberley Davies (PhD) is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University, Halifax, © supplied

The technology the project uses is called a ‘glider’. It’s an autonomous vehicle that travels on a programmed path through the ocean picking up and identifying whale calls. The torpedo like devices can go to a depth of 200 metres, and detect whale calls up to 100 kilometres away.

It can differentiate the calls of various species, and every 48 hours it surfaces to transmit its information back to the lab via satellite.

The huge advantage of the gliders is that costs are drastically reduced as scientists and boats are no longer needed to be out on the ocean for days or weeks at a time to search for and monitor whales.

Using battery power, the gliders  can travel for up to four months on their own before recovery.

The glider autonomous vehicle looks like a torpedo, it travels underwater collecting and analyzing whale calls and then surfaces every 48 hours to transmit data via satellite to the researchers on land.
The glider autonomous vehicle looks like a torpedo. It travels underwater collecting and analyzing whale calls and then surfaces every 48 hours to transmit data via satellite to the researchers on land. © Ocean Tracking Network

Climate change? Maybe, maybe not.

Normally a large number of the whales are found off the south coast of Nova Scotia at this time of year, but lately they seem to be going elsewhere.

Davies says the tracking programme has found more of them in the Gulf of St Lawrence than their usual area in the Roseway Basin around southern Nova Scotia.  Another researcher says many more than usual have also been spotted in the Bay of Fundy this year.

Two ’gliders’ have been deployed to travel in the Gulf of St Lawrence and on the Scotian shelf off the coast of Nova Scotia. The coloured dots represent recording of different species of whale calls. This year so far, more Right whales (red dots) have been heard in the Gulf, than their usual summer location off Nova Scotia
Two ’gliders’ have been deployed to travel in the Gulf of St Lawrence and on the Scotian shelf off the coast of Nova Scotia. The coloured dots represent recording of different species of whale calls. This year so far, more Right whales (red dots) have been heard in the Gulf, than their usual summer location off Nova Scotia © MEOPAR-Dalhousie University-Ocean tracking Network

Davies says that while this may seem unusual, it is likely due to fluctuations in amounts and locations of the whale’s food source, tiny zooplankton.  She also says that not enough is known of Right whale habits to say that changes in food supply or this ‘change’ in location are due to climate change. She notes there is a large natural variation, and studies have not been going on long enough to establish patterns.

At least two whales have died in September off the coast of Maine after becoming entangled in fishing gear, a third was saved by a special team.
At least two whales have died in September off the coast of Maine after becoming entangled in fishing gear, a third was saved by a special team. More protection for the species depends on knowing more about their habits and travels. The project hopes to add to that knowledge © International Fund for Animal Welfare

By tracking where the whales are and when, she says the multi-year project is helping to add data to scientific knowledge of the whales, and that should also help in developing policies beneficial to the species survival.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Animals, Environment, International, Science and Technology

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*