Friday, April 23, 2010

{Press} Federal scientists spot nearly 100 North Atlantic right whales

Correction to the article below - right whales are individually identified by the callosity pattern on their heads (not by their flukes like humpback whales)

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Boston.com | Martin Finucane, Globe Staff | April 23, 2010

"Researchers flying over the Atlantic coast earlier this week spotted a record number of endangered North Atlantic right whales feeding in Block Island Sound, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today.

Ninety-eight of the whales were spotted Tuesday by an aerial survey team. It was the largest group ever documented in those waters, the agency said.

The whales were surface feeding on plankton. At this time of year, the whales migrate north through New England waters, NOAA said in a statement.

It wasn't clear if any of the whales came from the group of 25 to 40 observed last week by a Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies boat 5 miles southwest of Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown. NOAA spokeswoman Shelley Dawicki said the researchers have been too busy to study the photos to determine -- using the patterns on their flukes -- the identities of the mammals.

Researchers estimate there are fewer than 450 of the marine mammals, which can grow 55 feet long and weigh more than 70 tons, the Globe reported last week in a story on the researchers off Provincetown. That would mean researchers saw almost one-fourth of all the living members of the species in a single flight.

The survey team plans to fly over the Great South Channel, which is due east of Cape Cod, today, Dawicki said."

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