Friday, November 20, 2009

New Bedford Whaling Museum hosts North Atlantic Right Whale experts

SouthCoastToday.com
By DON CUDDY
November 19, 2009

"NEW BEDFORD — A symposium on the North Atlantic Right Whale, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, drew 200 people from far and near to the Whaling City. The annual meeting is a gathering of the various entities known collectively as the New England Right Whale Consortium, a group comprising a variety of stakeholders whose primary focus is the study and conservation of the endangered right whale.

The consortium has existed since 1986, according to Moira Brown, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium, who currently serves as president of the consortium's board of directors.

"We're very happy to be here in New Bedford where we've come for the past four or five years," Brown said. "It's a great location because of the area, because of the venue and it's a really interesting group of people in the room. We have scientists, biologists, government scientists, government managers, NGO groups, academia as well as people who represent fishing. We've also had captains and people from the shipping industry attend in previous years."

The actual event, during which the latest research and findings are discussed, is closed to the media.

"A lot of what is being discussed is a work in progress," Brown explained. "A lot of it is brainstorming. We want it to be a forum for free exchange of information and we think that the presence of media would inhibit that. But we are happy to have discussions on specific topics outside of the meeting."

For Michael Moore, a senior research specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, holding the meeting in New Bedford is, above all, convenient, he said with a smile. Moore lives in Marion.

"I'm also on the board of trustees here at the museum," he said, "So when the gathering got too big for the New England Aquarium I was happy to see it coming to the city. We have 200 people who are staying in area hotels and eating in our restaurants."

People traveled from the Azores, Canada and even Italy to attend the gathering. "Some people from Genoa are looking to establish a sanctuary similar to Stellwagen in their waters," he said.

The right whale population in northern waters numbers around 415 according to best estimates, he said, and while the species is still endangered there has been a slow upward trend in the numbers since scientists first began their studies in the Bay of Fundy more than 25 years ago. Ship strikes and entanglements with fishing gear remain the most common causes of right whale mortality, Moore said."

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