North Atlantic Right Whales Spotted in Jordan Basin, Gulf of Maine, CREDIT: Misty Niemeyer/NOAA
A high number of North Atlantic right whales have been spotted in the Gulf of Maine over the last several weeks. This observation has led researchers at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center to believe that they have located a new wintering ground and possibly even a breeding ground for the perilously endangered species. Right whales are down to a population of about 325. About 100 females travel south to Georgia and Florida during the winter months to give birth, but little is known about where the other individuals go. On December 3, in the Jordan Bay area, 70 miles south of Bar Harbor, Maine, the NEFSC saw 44 individuals during an aerial survey.
“We’re excited because seeing 44 right whales together in the Gulf of Maine is a record for the winter months, when daily observations of three to give animals are much more common,” said Time Cole, head of the NEFSC’s aerial survey team. “Right whales are baleen whales, and in the winter spend a lot of time diving for food deep in the water column. Seeing so many of them at the surface when we are flying over is a bit of luck, said Cole”
On December 6, the team spotted three right whales on Cashes Ledge. According to Cole, right whales are known to be there but seeing them from the air is rare. A few days later on December 14, the team spotted 41 whales west of Jordan Basin.
On December 9, new speed rules for large ships went into effect to reduce the possibility of ship strikes. The speed restrictions have been controversial with shipping companies, who have objected to blanket restrictions without better real-time information on the whales’ whereabouts.
Copyright © 2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC
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