Thursday, May 20, 2010

{Press} Right whale disentangled off Chatham coast

Cape Cod Times | Aaron Gouveia | May 16, 2010

"PROVINCETOWN — A right whale was disentangled Thursday 60 miles off the coast of Chatham, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

The adult male right whale, which had two ropes around his left fluke and a "significant" amount of trailing rope, was feeding just below the surface Thursday when an aerial team from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center spotted it.

The Marine Entanglement Response Team and other rescue personnel from the Provincetown Center Coastal Studies responded to the scene two hours later.

After repeated attempts, the rescue workers cut both wraps. The whale shook the remaining rope free by working his flukes up and down, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

The same whale was seen in March 2009 with no entanglements and researchers are unclear where the whale came in contact with the rope."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

{Press} Rescuers save right whale off Cape Cod | Sean Teehan | May 15, 2010

"Rescuers disentangled a distressed right whale from about 150 feet of heavy rope off Cape Cod this week, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies said.

Federal marine scientists making an aerial survey first sighted the whale in the Great South Channel on Thursday about 60 miles east of Chatham, the center said in a statement.

When a team from the center arrived, the concern “wasn’t the amount of rope, it was how tight it was” wrapped around the whale, said Scott Landry, director of the center's Marine Animal Entanglement Response team.

After multiple attempts, the team cut all the rope as the whale struggled to get away from its rescuers.

If the center hadn’t responded, Landry said, “At best, the whale would have lost the greater part of its tail. At worst, it would have died of infection.” However, he added, the whale still has to nurse its own wounds to avoid infection.

Although his team successfully helped the whale, Landry urged anyone who sees an entangled whale to call the center or the Coast Guard rather than attempt a rescue on their own.

“The animal had no idea we were trying to help him," Landry said. "When a wild animal doesn’t want your help, it’s extremely dangerous."

Friday, May 07, 2010

{Press} Crossbow the right solution to free entangled whale | Stefanie Geisler | May 5, 2010

"Over the weekend, a team with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies used a unique new technique to free a right whale from a rope that ensnared its upper jaw.

Using a crossbow, the team cut the rope by shooting an arrow with four razor blades on its tip Saturday, said Scott Landry, director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team. The whale was not injured.

“We did this because this species is notorious for two things: having wraps around their upper jaw, and being very evasive,’’ Landry said. “They really do not like to be approached. That makes disentanglement very difficult.’’

A stopper was placed below the tip to prevent it from going into the whale, Landry said.

The whale, a female nicknamed Wart, had a dangerous problem — rope wrapped around her upper jaw and zigzagged through her baleen plates, which filter food particles from water.

The team had tried to free Wart several times, and time was a factor, Landry said. The rope may have led to deadly infection.

The team’s disentanglement success rate for humpback whales is about 90 percent, Landry said. For right whales, it is about 50 percent because the animals are so evasive.

Wart was first seen with long lengths of rope trailing alongside her in March 2008. At that time, however, the rope was only in her baleen and had not wrapped around her jaw.

Some whales can live for months or even years with that type of entanglement, Landry said. It becomes dangerous when a body part is ensnared.

In January, the whale was spotted again. This time, the rope was wrapped around her jaw.

“That’s when we realized, ‘OK, intervention is absolutely necessary,’ ’’ Landry said. “Entanglements can kill a whale over time by cutting into the whale and introducing infection. We’ve seen quite a few right whales die of exactly this kind of entanglement.’’

But the seas were rough, and the whale was far from shore, Landry said. An intervention had to wait until the whale was spotted again.

That spotting came Saturday in the Great South Channel off Cape Cod.

Working under federal permit, Landry and his crew were able to get within 40 feet of Wart.

When Wart finally surfaced to take a breath, Landry knew he had just one second before she dove back underwater. He also had just one try.

“Truth be told, it was very difficult,’’ Landry said. “It all happened very quickly.’’

Landry shot the arrow. It zipped through the air, and one of the blades cut straight through the rope wrapping around the whale’s jaw.

Wart was not touched and did not seem to realize anything had happened, Landry said. But when she came back up from her next dive, she began opening and closing her mouth.

“She definitely noticed something had changed," Landry said. “She had already begun to work the rest of the entanglement out on her own."

It looks as though she might be free.

At about 2 p.m. yesterday, an aerial survey team spotted a right whale they believe was Wart, Landry said. She had no rope around her jaw or in her baleen.

“We’re still awaiting confirmation, but this whale is very easy to recognize," Landry said. “It’s very likely it’s her and she’s gear-free."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

{Flight} 05 May 2010 Jeffrey's Ledge

Had another incredible flight! We only saw two right whales, but there were tons of fin, humpback, sei, and minke whales!!! We had a really great look at a few side feeding sei whales!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

{Flight} 04 May 2010 Great South Channel

Amazing flight today - lots and lots of whales! Humpbacks, fin whales, sei whales, minke whales, and even a basking shark! We saw 7 right whales including a surface active group! Got a cool shot of Monomoy on our transit home...

{Entanglement} Wart is gear free!!!

Great news!!!

The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Disentanglement Program with the assistance of the NOAA Twin Otter survey aircraft was able to free the right whale known as EGNO 1140 or "Wart" from her entanglement in fishing gear.

A sighting today by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies aircraft confirms that she is gear free!!!!

{Press} Large number of right whales off Rhode Island appear to have moved on

The Providence Journal | Peter B. Lord | May 4, 2010

"The historic assemblage of North Atlantic right whales that dallied in Rhode Island waters two weeks ago appears to have moved on.

A survey airplane operated by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies looked for the endangered whales on Saturday in the waters between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard and failed to see even one.

A similar survey flight operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified 98 right whales in several groups on April 20. That represented a large portion of the total estimated right whale population of 350 to 400 animals.

The whales generally migrate up the East Coast this time each year, from where they winter off Florida and Georgia to off Maine and Canada, where they spend summers.

The survey team on Saturday saw 16 basking sharks and some dolphins, but no right whales, according to Tanya Grady, communications coordinator for the Provincetown nonprofit organization. She said the group routinely surveys Cape Cod Bay and nearby federal waters because they are considered critical habitat for the whales.

A NOAA survey plane also flew on Saturday over waters east of Cape Cod and spotters in the plane identified 45 right whales, according to spokesperson Shelley Dawicki.

She said the Coast Guard observed one right whale in Rhode Island Sound, but it appears the rest have left."

Monday, May 03, 2010

{Cruise} Delaware II Cruise

We waved the Delaware II off and wished them well as they set out to explore the Great South Channel on a right whale research cruise! I won't be joining them this time...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

{Press} Right whales right off our shores

The Block Island Times | Dan West | May 1, 2010

"The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration spotted 98 rare North Atlantic right whales between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard on Monday.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts have asked boats to reduce speed to 10 knots when traveling through the area where the whales have been seen. It is also illegal to go within 500 yards of the animals without special permission.

Robert Kenney, an associate marine research scientist at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, studies right whales. He says the whales have been on the endangered list for 80 years and are considered the most endangered of all whale species. The 100 individual whales spotted along the New England coast in the last two weeks represent about one quarter of the total right whale population left in the world’s ocean. However, Kenney said sightings of that size are not uncommon in areas off Canada, where the whales live in the summer, or off the southern coast in the winter.

What is unusual about this sighting was the large number seen while they are migrating between their summer and winter homes. Kenney said that since right whales are not especially social animals they aren’t normally seen in such high numbers as they migrate. They do not usually travel in large pods but rather swim alone or in a very small group.

Kenney said that right whales have been migrating along the East Coast for hundreds or even thousands of years. When their food is abundant the whales will stay in the area for an extended period of time to feed before continuing north.

“The same type of event happened in 1998,” Kenney said. “This isn’t a one-time thing it’s more of an occasional event.”

Nearly all of the whales were in an area being studied for the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan.

The Ocean SAMP is an effort to evaluate and zone Rhode Island coastal waters with an eye toward commercial wind development. The study will cover wide-ranging issues — shipping traffic, bird migration — that could be impacted by possible wind farm development.

According to Laura Ricketson-Dwyer, information coordinator for the Coastal Resources Management Council, the whale sightings have “no impact to the Ocean SAMP or how we are developing it.”

Ricketson-Dwyer explained that the researchers at URI have added the whale sightings to their database but they will not have an immediate impact on the SAMP.

Kenney said that the SAMP would be taking a lot of information into account. He explained that before any wind farm is approved it would need to pass an environmental study that would consider whale migration patterns.

Meanwhile, whale spouts have been sighted all around Block Island in the last week — from the bluffs, the end of Cooneymus Road as well as the ferry."