Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More right whales have arrived

The weekend had more right whales arriving in the Bay of Fundy, with an estimated 40 or more along a narrow stretch. Prior to this, the New England Aquarium had photographed and/or identified 33 different whales including seven calves since the beginning of August. The whales are close to Grand Manan on the western side of the Grand Manan Basin.

Zooplankton tows conducted by our researchers last week in the Grand Manan Basin showed low levels of copepods which is the major reason the right whales are not in the deep part of the Basin. Zooplankton tows were not done on the western side of the Basin where the right whales are now but it would be interesting to see the results and are planned.

This arrival of right whales is a bit later than some years but there is great variability in the arrival times of right whales in the Bay of Fundy. Development of dense zooplankton patches, availability of zooplankton elsewhere are possible reasons. The more whales, the more difficult it is to find mothers and calves who earlier almost had the Bay to themselves.

Hot, humid weather has also spawned more fog which makes finding right whales or any whales more difficult. If the sea conditions are calm, whales can be heard breathing and you can move slowly toward the direction where the sound is coming from but great care must be taken and slow speeds employed since sounds travel farther than the whales can be seen in the restricted visibility.

A number of small power boats travelling above 15 knots have been in the whale area in the last few days, whale watching. So far there have been no close encounters between the boats and the whales but slow speed is the more prudent approach to watching whales, particularly if the operators are inexperienced with whale behaviour.

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