Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Block Island right whale aggregation

The National Marine Fisheries Service flew an aerial survey on April 20, 2010 to look for right whales off Block Island. This is an historic area where right whales were hunted. In recent times right whale have been seen in this area but not in these numbers. Often their presence has been detected by sonobuoys, underwater buoys equipped with hydrophones, placed to pick up right whale calls in this area. Nearly 100 right whales were seen feeding in large groups. A mother and calf were also seen.

This aggregation seems to follow the abnormal winter with many adult right whale males going to the calving areas off Florida and Georgia and the mothers occurring more offshore and further south than usual. The latter was attributable to the colder than normal water temperatures after freezing temperatures in January.

Normally this time of year right whales are spotted in Cape Cod Bay and beginning to move into the Great South Channel.

The United States does have a speed reduction for large vessels that is implemented when right whales are aggregated in areas which hopefully will reduce the probability of any getting hit by ships as the ships head in and out of the port of New York, past Block Island.

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