Sunday, February 14, 2010

Renowned marine scientist to give talk at Wareham Library

GateHouse News Service | Feb 06, 2010

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is an 842-square-mile federally designated marine-protected area located off the coast of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It is home to some of the highest concentrations of endangered whales in the United States and it is also heavily used by commercial fisheries, shipping and whale watching vessels, making the sanctuary a “hot spot” for whale and human interaction, often with deadly outcome.

As research coordinator for the sanctuary, Wareham resident Dr. David Wiley leads a team of scientists who tagged right, humpback and finback whales with electronic monitoring devices and tracked whale surfacing and feeding behavior through feedback from sound buoys. Tracking information, combined with analysis of 25 years of data on whale sightings and ship strikes, helped Wiley and his team determine where whales were spending the most time. The team discovered that a prime feeding location corresponded with routes traveled by nearly 200 large commercial ships per month heading for the port of Boston. Wiley’s team presented the commercial shipping industry with their findings and a plan to avoid whale strikes, which are the leading cause of whale deaths in the open ocean.

By adjusting shipping lanes a mere 12 degrees northward in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, ship strikes to endangered right whales will be reduced as much as 58 percent -and risks to all large whale species by 80 percent or more. The commercial shipping industry embraced the plan, which took effect July 1, 2007.

Wiley’s research into reducing threats to endangered whales in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary led not only to a shift in shipping lanes but also, more recently, to recognition by the US Department of Commerce, which awarded him the agency’s prestigious Gold Medal award.

Wiley will be bringing his message home to the Wareham Free Library from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, when he will discuss his ongoing research tracking whale activity in an effort improve the safety and wellbeing both of the whales and their human neighbors. The talk is open to the public and sponsored by the Wareham Land Trust.

Claire Smith of the Wareham Land Trust is looking forward to the talk:

“We purposely scheduled this discussion during school vacation week,” she said. “We are so fortunate to have Dr. Wiley nearby to share his exciting research with us. I encourage nature lovers of all ages to attend on Feb. 18.”

Refreshments will be served. For more information, call 508-295-0211 or visit www.warehamland.org."

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