Thursday, March 06, 2008

Aerial Survey- 06 March 2008

An adult North Atlantic right whale "posturing" with both the head and tail out of the water. Photo by Christin Khan, PCCS.

We began our survey today by flying up the coastline on the backside of Cape Cod where we encountered one lone minke whale. We entered Cape Cod Bay from the North and began to make our way down through the bay searching for the telltale signs of right whales. Soon we spotted a single adult right whale. No sooner had we photographed that whale, when we came across another single right whale. Ten minutes later, there was a third right whale! This one seemed to be traveling somewhere in a hurry, and we soon saw lots of surface activity up ahead… the whale was racing toward another group of right whale engaged in a surface active group (SAG). The whales were rolling and splashing at the surface, and one whale was belly up. As we circled the aircraft around the group of whales trying to determine how many individuals were involved in the SAG and obtain ID photographs, we came across another right whale swimming alone nearby, and then another! Clearly this small geographic area was a hotspot for right whales today. Unfortunately, the last whale we saw had fishing rope trailing out of the left side of her mouth… we immediately abandoned our survey effort and focused our attention on the entangled right whale. We contacted the PCCS disentanglement team who raced to the scene. We were able to track the entangled whale for several hours, but the whale’s evasive behavior and fading daylight did not permit the attachment of a tracking buoy.

Right whale photo taken under Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies NOAA Fisheries permit 633-1763, under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.

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