Monday, January 30, 2012

{Press}

Some changes are brewing to this blog interface... I am no longer going to re-blog news articles relevant to right whales. I hope that this news is not a great disappointment to anyone, but it has become a bit time consuming and I think Google makes it easy enough to read recent news on a particular topic, or you can set up a Google alert to have this news brought to you in a daily digest email.

Blogs posts will therefore become less frequent, but I hope that they will be more personal and interesting :-)

Monday, January 23, 2012

{Press} Crackdown on high seas speeders aims to save right whales

Canada.com | Randy Boswell, January 17, 2012

"In a bid to protect Canada's most endangered marine mammal, U.S. officials have carried out a crackdown on speeding ships that threaten to strike North Atlantic right whales along their annual migration route between the Bay of Fundy and waters off the coast of Florida.

NOAA, the Washington, D.C.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has announced the resolution of three cases involving large commercial vessels that violated speed limits in known right whale habitats between New York City and Mayport, Florida.

The owner of a German cargo ship agreed to pay 16 separate fines totalling $92,000 U.S. for speeding violations near Mayport. The operators of the M/V Vega Sachsen were found to have repeatedly violated provisions of the U.S Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act between December 2009 and April 2010.

Two other ship owners agreed to pay their fines as well, and six more are still facing charges of breaking the 10-knot speed limit imposed in 2008 in areas identified as right whale migration corridors or calving areas.

The ships have been clocked at up to 18 knots and have been slapped with $5,750 tickets for each infraction. NOAA researchers have concluded that ship speed is a clear "predictor of death" when vessels and whales collide.

"The likelihood of a whale fatality due to ship strike increases from around 45 per cent to 75 per cent when vessel speed increases from 10 to 14 knots," NOAA told Postmedia News in an emailed statement on Tuesday. "Chance of death at 17 knots was 90 per cent."

The statement also noted that "the death of even one whale can be devastating to the right whale population; in fact, NOAA Fisheries estimates that a female right whale will need to give birth to four healthy calves over her lifetime to successfully replace herself within the population."

Experts believe there are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales living today off the East Coast of North America, where they spend the summer and fall feeding and breeding in the Gulf of Maine, including the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The rest of the year is spent migrating towards or congregating at a well-known birthing site near Florida and other habitats in Atlantic waters in the U.S. southeast.

Although the population history of the species is not entirely clear, most biologists believe a once-robust population of right whales was reduced to its current, vulnerable state by overzealous, oil-seeking whalers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The species was dubbed the "right" whale because its slow movements in shallow, nearshore waters made it the "right" target for harvesting.

Today, entanglements in fishing nets and ship strikes by speeding vessels — which can collide with animals before they are able to react — are the leading causes of death and injury to right whales, which can weigh up to 110 tonnes and reach lengths beyond 18 metres.

In Canada, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans also has taken steps to protect right whales by identifying no-go zones at certain times of the year and imposing strict speed limits in other areas in and around the Bay of Fundy.

U.S. and Canadian officials have also collaborated with fishermen, scientists and wildlife groups to reduce the entanglement of right whales in fishing gear.

rboswell@postmedia.com"

{Press} Operation Right Speed: Coast Guard and NOAA Implement Regulations To Protect Whales

Coast Guard Auxilary Live Blog | Auxiliarist Mary Bethea | January 10, 201

"Many people many not know it, but right whales are the rarest of all large whales. Experts estimate that only several hundred Northern right whales exist in the wild because they were hunted to near extinction. This is one of the very reasons that Operation Right Speed has been put in effect until the end of April 2012, reminding larger vessels sailing along the Atlantic Seaboard to slow down for right whales.

Operation Right Speed is a coordinated effort between the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to protect the endangered species during seasonal migration and to educate mariners about these routes. NOAA has implemented regulations that require vessels 65 feet or greater to operate at 10 knots or less in areas where the right whales are known to migrate.

The 300 or so right whales found along the east coast of the United States have certain “home bases” for particular times of the year. These regions extend from Massachusetts to Florida and encompass feeding grounds, calving and nursery zones, as well as the migratory routes. By reducing your vessel’s speed in the restricted zones, you can be an ocean steward and help ensure these migratory mammals have a safe passage.

Besides protecting the right whales, the true end goal is to rehabilitate the population."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

{Press} A song about right whales!

Check it out here:

http://saltypink.bandcamp.com/track/right-whale

Right Whale
by Salty Pink

Immediate download of Right Whale in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.

Buy Now $1 USD

All profits will go toward whale conservation.

Lyrics adapted from a National Geographic article by Douglas Chadwick.

Whether singing homegrown cowgirl tunes or covering classic country songs, Leah Houghtaling and Amelia Sauter embrace the ...

saltypink.com

Friday, January 13, 2012

{Press} Three vessels charged with violating Right Whale ship strike reduction rule pay penalties

NOAA News | January 10, 2012

Speed restrictions in seasonal management areas reduce risk of death to endangered whales.

"Three large commercial vessels who were assessed civil penalties this fall for violating seasonal speed limits designed to protect one of the most endangered whale species in the world have paid their penalties in full. Cases against six other vessels for the same offense are still open.

The ship strike reduction rule, enacted in December 2008, restricts vessels of 65 feet or greater to speeds of 10 knots or less in seasonal management areas along the East Coast to reduce the chances of North Atlantic right whales being injured or killed by ships.

Notices of Violation and Assessment (NOVAs) were issued Nov. 21 by the NOAA Office of General Counsel’s enforcement section to owners and operators of vessels that allegedly traveled multiple times through the seasonal management areas at speeds well in excess of the 10 knots allowed under the regulations.

The alleged violations occurred between November 2009 and January 2011 outside of New York City; Charleston, S.C.; Brunswick, King’s Bay and Savannah, Ga.; and Mayport, Fla. One vessel was charged with 16 counts of speeding. Vessels’ documented speeds ranged from 13 to 18 knots, and the vessels traveled these speeds for as many as 26 nautical miles.

Each count in the NOVAs was assessed at $5,750, resulting in total penalty assessments ranging from $11,500 to $92,000. None of the vessels receiving NOVAs had prior violations.

The owners and operators had 30 days to respond either by paying the penalty, seeking to have it modified, or requesting a hearing.

Compliance with this rule is critically important for preventing right whale extinction. Ship strikes are the leading source of human-caused mortality for right whales, and together with entanglements in nets, are slowing the recovery of this critically endangered species.

Biologists believe that there are as few as 396 right whales left in the North Atlantic Ocean. Right whales are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The death of even one whale can be devastating to the right whale population. NOAA estimates that a female right whale will need to give birth to four healthy calves over her lifetime to successfully replace herself within the population.

The mission of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations enacted to conserve and protect our nation's marine resources. To report a suspected violation, contact Enforcement’s national hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

For more information on the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule, including a compliance guide with maps of the seasonal management areas and dates they are in effect, visithttp://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike/

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels."

{Flight} 11 January 2012 Rhode Island Sound

We have been flying much more than I've had the time to blog about, but in the spirit of the New Year, I am going to try to share more updates in 2012! :-)

On Wednesday we flew in our Rhode Island Sound survey box, and we did not find any right whales in the area, but we did see 2 harbor porpoise, 1 humpback whale, and 1
fin whale.

After the right whale survey, we also flew around Muskeget Island to document gray seals - such a gorgeous view to fly around the island and see the antics of all the seals hauled out on land and swimming around in the waters nearby. There were too many to count without further analysis.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

{Talk} "Changing (Shipping) Lanes for the North Atlantic Right Whale"

Cape Cod Today

Saturday, February 25, 2012 02:00 PM - 03:00 PM

The North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis), the most endangered whale in the world, inhabits the waters off Cape Cod, mostly during spring and summer. The same waters are a super-highway for mega cargo ships. Join David Wiley, PhD, Research Coordinator for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, as he discusses his research that led to the shifting of shipping lanes into the port of Boston. Dr. Wiley coordinated the international effort to reduce the risks of ship strikes to endangered whales north of Cape Cod.

Location:
Harwich Community Center
100 Oak Street
Harwich MA 02645

Contact Information:
Mike Lach
508-432-3997
hct@cape.com
http://www.harwichconservationtrust.org

Fee: Suggested donation: $2

{Press} Canal Closed For Four Hours After Whales Sighted

Capenews.net | Michael J. Rausch | January 6, 2012

"Traffic came to a standstill in Bourne for several hours Monday to accommodate the arrival of a couple of rare visitors.

The traffic was marine traffic, and the visitors were a pair of right whales who swam into the Cape Cod Canal. Someone living at the east end of the canal called the Army Corps of Engineers just before 8 AM and said they thought they saw a whale in the waterway.

The Marine Traffic Control Center at the Army Corps of Engineers on Academy Drive immediately closed the canal to boat traffic.

Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center Park Ranger Samantha A. Gray said the control center monitors the traffic of all vessels 65 feet and longer that moves through the canal.
“When something like a whale does come into the canal,” Ms. Gray said, “any large traffic requesting to come in would not be allowed in. We have to coordinate all that to ensure safety.”

Right whales are relatively friendly, often swimming right up to the side of a boat, and they swim within sight of shore, making them easy to spot. They were hunted to near extinction during the height of the whaling industry.

At present, there are fewer than 500 right whales in the North Atlantic, making them one of the rarest of marine mammals and placing them on the endangered species list. Three sightings were reported in Cape Cod Bay on December 15, and more than a hundred were sighted in Cape Cod Bay in a single day back in April.

Right whales are easily identified by the spout from their blowhole.
“They are unique in that when they exhale, their spout is a V-shape,” Ms. Gray explained, which was how they could be differentiated from other species of whale.
Dennis A. Arsenault was on duty at the Marine Traffic Control Center on Monday when the whales arrived in the canal.

“It’s not uncommon, but it’s not a daily occurrence,” Mr. Arsenault said about whales entering the canal.

He said there is a maritime rule in effect that says one cannot come within 500 feet of a right whale.

“Obviously, if you’re in the canal, there’s no way you’re going to go by this thing without being within 500 feet, seeing as the canal’s only 480 feet wide,” he said.
Mr. Arsenault said the Marine Traffic Control Center does not take extraordinary measures to move whales through the canal, such as pushing them out with boats. He said right whales are not fast swimmers, so they came in with the tide, and when the tide changed, “they went out with the tide.” The whales made it as far as the high wires by the Bourndale Herring Run, and at that point, the tide shifted.

“They typically don’t swim against the tide,” he explained. “We witnessed them eastbound a couple of times by the Sagamore Bridge,” he said, before they disappeared.

The canal was shut down for a total of four hours, Mr. Arsenault said. Two and a half hours of that time was spent keeping an eye on the horizon after the last sighting of the whales to make sure they were, in fact, gone.

“Even if they were just floating, it wouldn’t take two and a half hours to go from the Sagamore Bridge to Scusset,” he said.

Mr. Arsenault said that the Coast Guard was contacted about the sightings.
He said the Coast Guard was on-site with their boat, and the Marine Traffic Control Center had a boat in the water, and a duty ranger was out on land, “so we had three sets of eyes to just kind of track them.”

Calls about “something” being in the waters of the canal are common, Mr. Arsenault said. He said the Marine Traffic Control Center gets daily calls about logs, seals, and sunfish.

On Monday, he said they sent a patrol boat out on the water, and a duty ranger on land, and each confirmed they were right whales by the spouts.

He said there was a tugboat with a barge already inside the canal at the east end that could not turn around, so they had to escort the tug and barge through the channel.

“As [the tugboat captain] went under the Sagamore Bridge, he saw a right whale at the same time our patrol boat saw one up by the herring run,” Mr. Arsenault said, explaining how they knew there were two whales in the canal. He said about two hours after the whales were sighted, a fishing boat, some barges and a Coast Guard cutter were held up from entering the canal until the all-clear signal was given sometime around noon.

Shutting down the canal is an even rarer occurrence than the appearance of a right whale, Mr. Arsenault said. He said it is usually at the discretion of the mariner, the type of vessel that is being piloted, as well as what the conditions are when they want to go through, whether or not to traverse the canal.

“We’re open during a hurricane,” he said. “Fog, rain, snow, we’re open.”

{Press} Whale Protection Rules In Effect

The Dispatch | January 6, 2012

"OCEAN CITY -- With the appearance of whales feeding and frolicking off the coast of the resort last week, the Coast Guard this week is reminding large vessel operators that the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule is in effect from November to April, to protect endangered right whales in mid-Atlantic waters where they are known to migrate.

Collisions with ships and interaction with fishing gear are a major cause of mortality and injury to the North Atlantic right whale. As the federal government's primary maritime enforcement agency, the Coast Guard is working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a shared goal of conserving and rehabilitating the critically endangered whale’s population, which stands at approximately 300 worldwide.

NOAA fisheries implemented the regulations, which require vessels 65 feet or longer to operate at 10 knots or less over ground in certain locations consistent with the whales’ migratory pattern along the Atlantic coast. Vessels may operate at speeds more than 10 knots only if necessary to maintain a safe maneuvering speed in an area where conditions severely restrict vessel maneuverability as determined by the pilot or master."

{Press} Right Whale Sighting Unusual for Kodiak Island Waters

KMXT 100.1FM Public Radio in Kodiak, Alaska | January 5, 2012

One of the photos used by scientists to identify a Right Whale visiting Uganik Bay in December. Scientist Kate Wynne says the smooth back and rostrum (upper jaw, on the right) are distinctive enough to make a positive identification. She says photos of whales are always welcome. They can be sent to her e-mail.

Jennifer Canfield/KMXT

Last month Beth and Amy Pingree were taking photos of humpback whales near their home in Uganik Bay. They're part of a whale observation and sighting network that reports back to the Fishery Industrial Technology Center. They noticed something unusual. It wasn't a humpback. They sent pictures and detailed descriptions to Kate Wynne who is a marine mammal specialist at FITC. Wynne identified it as an endangered right whale. Just to be sure she sent the photos and details to colleagues in Seattle. They confirmed Wynne's identification.

Wynne says the creatures, which can grow to 60 feet long and live up to 100 years, were named right whales because commercial whalers in the 1800's considered them the ‘right' whale to hunt. They were often sighted close to shore, were known to be friendly- sometimes coming right up to the boats- and their corpses would float. All of this made them very easy prey.

KMXT's Jennifer Canfield spoke with Wynne, who says this sighting is very unusual for several reasons."

Thursday, January 05, 2012

{Press} MDI man builds reputation with whale bones

Bangor Daily News | Bill Trotter | January 4, 2012

"TREMONT, Maine — Dan DenDanto did not construct his garage for this sort of thing.

Built about a decade ago to fit three vehicles, the structure from the outside resembles many other residential garages on the “quiet” side of Mount Desert Island, where pickup trucks and lobstermen workbenches are commonly found behind the overhead doors.

So when it comes to using the space to piece together the bones of a 52-foot-long right whale — larger than most school buses — it can get a little crowded.

“It won’t fit through the door with its rib cage assembled,” DenDanto said Tuesday about the skeleton as he weaved through a suspended maze of large bones spread about among the garage’s three bays. “It’s 10 feet wide.”

But for the carpenter and whale researcher, accumulating whale bones, some nearly 13 feet long, at his home in the local village of Seal Cove is worth the effort. The whale skeleton is one of two he is reassembling for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. After working on the project since last spring, DenDanto expects to finish preparing the skeleton, deliver it by truck and install it in the coming week. He’ll be paid $80,000 for his work, he said.

The adult whale, a female known since the 1980s as “Stumpy” by whale researchers for her damaged fluke, or tail, was killed in early 2004 by a ship strike off the mid-Atlantic coast. She was pregnant with a near-term fetus that did not survive the collision when she died. DenDanto and a few part-time assistants have been reconstructing the skeletons of both for the museum.

Stumpy was estimated to be approximately 35 or 40 years old by researchers on the East Coast who keep track of the endangered North Atlantic right whale population, which is believed to consist of approximately 400 individual whales.

“This particular right whale was studied pretty intensively,” said DenDanto, a graduate of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. “This is an iconic individual.”

In addition to being a carpenter and rearticulator of whale bones, DenDanto is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maine and a research associate at COA’s Allied Whale.

Stumpy, DenDanto said, was known to have given birth to other right whales over her lifetime, which scientists view as a crucial contribution to the population’s critically low numbers. He said researchers believe the injury that provided Stumpy her name was caused by a previous ship strike early on in her life. Right whales have a reputation to be slow moving and particularly vulnerable to ship strikes, he said, and female right whales even more so, because of the coastal areas where they tend to be found when pregnant or with young offspring.

Putting Stumpy’s skeleton on display, and that of her 17-foot fetus, should help draw attention to the plight of North Atlantic right whales, he said.

“They stand to have a pretty emotional impact by displaying the two [skeletons] together,” DenDanto said. “Because of her story, the conservation message will have more impact.”

The MDI man is familiar with museum displays of whale skeletons. By his estimate, he has rearticulated roughly a dozen whales since 1993, the first being a relatively small minke whale he assembled for the Bar Harbor Whale Museum.

Since then he has rearticulated the skeletons of four humpback whales, a killer whale, a pilot whale, two other minkes, a northern bottlenose whale, another right whale and a sperm whale. He now has a business, Whales and Nails, specifically dedicated to this kind of work.

Museums where some of DenDanto’s work is on display include the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mass., the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Biology, the Nantucket Whaling Museum and the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, N.H. The two skeletons he is finishing up will be the first two to be shipped outside New England, he said.

“I’ve garnered a reputation now,” DenDanto said. “Most of it is by word of mouth.”

He guessed that, nationwide, there are maybe between 60 and 70 rearticulated whale skeletons on display at museums and similar institutions.

Assembling the skeletons requires more than just an understanding of whale anatomy, according to DenDanto. He is not an engineer, he said, so his clients usually rely on architecture firms to determine whether a museum ceiling can support a three-ton whale skeleton.

Most of the whale skeletons he gets already have been cleaned of flesh and cartilage, usually by being buried in a manure pile for a year or two, but he sometimes has to clean or bleach them further, depending on the client’s wishes. He frequently replaces missing bones with plastic replicas made from other skeletons. For example, the fetus skull was never recovered, he said, and will be substituted with a model right whale calf skull provided by the North Carolina museum.

Piecing the bones together, he said, is a matter of getting the spacing right, securing them to one another with carefully welded and concealed pieces of steel piping and rebar, and filling in the sections where cartilage used to be. These sections, he said, are usually filled in with expanding foam that doubles as glue and a layer of papier-mache to help minimize the weight load, before being coated with a light gray epoxy.

The skeletons are never really complete until they are installed in the display institutions, he said. They are transported by truck usually in three or four sections to the display site, where DenDanto and his helpers secure the final connections before hoisting the skeleton into place. He estimated that to unload the bones of Stumpy and her fetus, assemble them into two whole skeletons and secure them in their display positions in the museum’s new 80,000 square-foot addition will take five days.

DenDanto said he is eager to be finished with the project, which kept him busy through the holidays. His wife, he added, is eager to get the mother whale’s rebuilt flipper, which resembles a giant human hand and is as big as a twin bed, out of the hallway of their house.

He said he has another project lined up that involves rebuilding two pilot whale skeletons for the Seacoast Science Center, but that one is not due until April.

“We’ll take a breather,” DenDanto said. “I want to celebrate Christmas.”

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter."

{Update} Up to 3 new right whale calves!

The aerial surveys monitoring the southeast calving grounds of the North Atlantic right whale have found a third new mother and calf pair! Let's hope that we see many more over the next few months!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

{Press} Coast Guard reminds boaters to limit speed

JDNews.com | January 03, 2012

"The Coast Guard is reminding operators of large vessels of a rule in place to protect the endangered Atlantic right whale.

The Ship Strike Reduction Rule is in effect from November to April to protect endangered right whales in mid-Atlantic waters where they are known to migrate. Collisions with ships and interaction with fishing gear are said to be a major cause of mortality and injury to the North Atlantic right whale.

The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working together to protect the critically endangered whale’s population, which stands at approximately 300 worldwide, according to a Coast Guard news release.

NOAA fisheries has implemented regulations that require vessels 65 feet or longer to operate at 10 knots or less over ground in certain locations consistent with the whales’ migratory pattern along the Atlantic coast. These locations include a 20 nautical mile radius around the port of Morehead City and Beaufort and a continuous area 20 nautical miles from shore between Wilmington and Brunswick, Ga. Vessels may operate at speeds more than 10 knots only if necessary to maintain a safe maneuvering speed in an area where conditions severely restrict vessel maneuverability as determined by the pilot or master.

“I think that anyone who’s seen one of these impressive creatures can understand why protecting them is so important,” said Lt. j.g. James Kopcsay, an enforcement officer at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina in Wilmington, via the news release. “Following the provisions of this rule is of critical importance to preventing their extinction. The Coast Guard’s goal is to educate mariners about the importance of this rule, minimizing our need to issue warnings or seek civil penalties that result from choosing to break it.”

Records indicate an average of two reported deaths or serious injuries to right whales occur due to ship strikes each year.

To report a suspected violation in the seasonal management areas, call the national hotline at 800-853-1964."

{Press} Right whale sighting closes Cape Cod Canal

Cape Cod Times | Mary Ann Bragg | January 03, 2012

"BUZZARDS BAY — A pair of North Atlantic right whales swimming in the Cape Cod Canal led Army Corps of Engineers officials to close the waterway for four hours Monday.

The endangered marine mammals were spotted in the canal shortly after 9 a.m., Dennis Arsenault, an Army Corps marine traffic controller, said Monday. Two government ships were sent out to keep tabs on the whales, which were last seen heading east in a strong current near the Sagamore Bridge, most likely exiting into Cape Cod Bay, Arsenault said. The canal was reopened at 1 p.m.

The right whales are considered endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Fewer than 500 remain in the world, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society communications manager Karen Urciuoli. The conservation society, which has offices in Plymouth, was not directly involved in the sighting.

"This is about the time we start to see right whales in Cape Cod Bay," Urciuoli said Monday. "In the past few years, there's been about one sighting in the canal a year. It's really fantastic for them to spot them and shut the canal, to restrict the traffic. One of the leading dangers to the North Atlantic right whale is ship strike."

Closing the canal when right whales are spotted is standard operating procedure because of the whales' scarce numbers. The canal is 14 miles long and typically sees about 20,000 ships pass through its waters each year.

Since Nov. 30, right whales have been seen in the bay by spotters for the conservation society, Urciuoli said. A handful of right whales were seen in mid-December off the coast of Provincetown, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

The majority of the western population of North Atlantic right whales spends winters calving in coastal waters off southeastern U.S. lands. The whales move north to New England, the Bay of Fundy and beyond for summer feeding and nursery grounds.

Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay are designated by the federal government as areas of "high use" for right whales and a primary habitat.

In December 2008, the Cape Cod Canal was closed for 2½ hours because one right whale swam east to west through the canal, exiting at Buzzards Bay.

Before that, the last one to traverse the canal was seven years previous, according to a Center for Coastal Studies spokesman.

Staff writer Steve Doane contributed to this report."

Monday, January 02, 2012

{Press} Right whale pair sighting shuts down canal

Cape Cod Times | Steve Doane | January 02, 2012

"The Cape Cod Canal has reopened after a four-hour closure caused by a pair of right whales traveling through the waterway.

Shortly after 9 a.m., the whales were spotted traveling in the canal, said Dennis Arsenault, a marine traffic controller with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The sighting spurred the Corps to temporarily close the canal and two government ships were sent out to keep tabs on the animals.

The whales were last spotted travelling east from the Sagamore Bridge in a strong current and it's believed they made their way into the Cape Cod Bay, Arsenault said.

The canal was reopened at 1 p.m."