Sunday, July 19, 2009

Radiator entangled

We just learned from the Atlantic Large Whale Entanglement Network that Radiator was seen on July 18 towing a round yellow buoy south of Nantucket Island off Cape Cod, MA. He was seen from a charter vessel returning to shore after looking for pelagic seabirds (those seabirds that spend their lives on the ocean except when nesting). There were some photographs taken and the New England Aquarium identified the whale as Radiator.

Radiator is so named because of the propeller scars on his left tail stock. He also has scars from a previous entanglement on his tail. One of the photographs showed relatively fresh scrapes across his peduncle. The point of entanglement is not clear because he was not fully fluking up but keeping the left side of the fluke underwater. This is not normal right whale behaviour and he may have other injuries.

Because the report was not received until late in the evening, no response could be made to assess the entanglement and members of the Network are asked to keep a lookout for Radiator.

Entanglements are much too common in right whales and represent a significant mortality problem for them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Right whale mothers and calves arriving

We have had two reports of mothers and calves in the Bay of Fundy, one report was on July 15 by two of our researchers while they were doing a plankton tow in the Grand Manan Basin. The other was on July 15 by Brier Island Whale & Seabird Tours from Brier Island, NS. We don't have an identification on either report and also do not know at this time if they were the same pair but quite probably could be two different pairs. Frequently early in the season, right whales are quite mobile, moving around the Bay of Fundy before staying in areas of high copepod abundance. Part of this is because the copepod patches (zooplankton that right whales prefer) accumulate and grow in size as the summer progresses, allowing more whales to feed in the same area. Mothers also seem to show their calves around various places probably teaching them likely migration routes and feeding locations.

There are still right whales in the Great South Channel and above George's Bank in the Gulf of Maine. Typically when these aggregations disappear, right whale numbers go up in the Bay of Fundy. Right whales may be slow to come in to the Bay of Fundy in some years even though copepods are abundant because copepods are available elsewhere without the commute.