Humpback Humpback
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FINAL Humpback Whale Migration Update: May 26, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Special Thanks To Anne Smrcina!
We want to extend a very special thanks to whale expert extraordinaire Anne Smrcina. Each season--as dependable as whale migration itself--Anne's news reports simply land in our laps. For the past 6 spring seasons, she and her network of whale experts up and down the Atlantic coast have voluntarily shared their expertise, research, and knowledge about whales with us all. As one inspired student was overheard saying, "I want to go to see the ocean!" Thanks, Anne, for bringing the incredible story of whale migration to so many of us who have never had the chance to see a whale...yet.

Anne's Final Notes of the Season
Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This is my last report for Journey North this year, but not the last time I'll be writing about humpback whales. It looks like we'll be very busy again this year. If you get a chance to come out east, a whalewatch is a tremendously exciting experience. For those of you who can't come out to see the whales personally, I'd like to thank all of you for your continued Internet-based interest in these marvelous mammals.

Admiring From a Safe Distance
The humpbacks have returned to their northern feeding grounds in large numbers -- and the whalewatch companies have been reporting another banner year. But along with the commercial interest comes a growing concern about whether the whales are being harassed by this large (and growing) number of vessels. The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Ocean Service (Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary) have issued a revised set of guidelines for whalewatching (developed in conjunction with cetacean researchers, environmental organizations, other government agencies and the industry). The guidelines are intended to provide recommendations to boaters that will keep them from harassing or injuring whales (which could lead to prosecutions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered Species Act).

The guidelines recommend that boats slow down to 13 knots when they get within 2 miles of a whale, to 10 knots when they are 1 mile from the whale, and 7 knots when they are within a half mile. Boaters should not attempt a head-on approach, and should disengage their propulsion systems when in close proximity to whales. Only one vessel should be in the close approach zone (100-300 feet) and two in the standby zone (300-600 feet). It is recommended that the close approach vessel depart that zone after 15 minutes to allow viewing by another vessel. A trained corps of observers from the Coast Guard Auxiliary will be keeping track of how well the guidelines are being followed and how well they seem to be protecting whales from harassment and injury this year. The National Marine Fisheries Service and Sanctuary will use this information to determine if further action is warranted.

Keeping In Touch With Whales This Summer
That's all for this year's Journey North reporting on humpback whales. I hope I've been able to provide you with some exciting and timely information and sparked an interest in these great animals. For those of you wishing to pursue whale studies this summer, here are two interesting sites if you have access to the Internet this summer:
  • Keep up on humpback whales (and other cetaceans) at WhaleNet

  • You can get the latest info on our new program with the National Geographic Society called theSustainable Seas Expedition, with sub dives and ship operations during the first two weeks of July.

What's in a Name? Discussion of Challenge Question #10
In my last report I asked you "Based on all of the humpback names you see below, can you figure out the rules for humpback whale naming?"

Becky from Mrs. Hepner's class in Alaska submitted this answer:
" The names can't be human names; The names can't tell the sex of the whale; The name tells something about some of the whale's characteristics" Becky Warton 3rd grade, Mrs. Hepner's class. (

The whale naming requirements are simple, and here's a little more detail:
  1. Whale names cannot be human names (no Ted or Heather).

  2. Whale names cannot be gender specific (no Mr. Tibbs or Miss Take or Filly or Colt) -- [This rule is in place because often the whale's sex is not known; the rule is sometimes broken when the sex is known and the person naming the whale really wants to see that name adopted.]

  3. Whale names should be descriptive about one of some of the whale's markings (usually on the underside of its flukes). Humpbacks have distinctive markings on their tails, patterns of black and white, that usually don't change after the first year or two. For example, one whale has a pattern that looks like a cat's paw print, hence its name Cat's Paw. One whale has a marking that looks like the number 7, hence its name Seven.

Coming Soon
Answers to the whale Ask the Expert questions are on their way. Have a healthy and happy summer. This is Anne Smrcina, education coordinator of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, signing off.

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This the FINAL Humpback Whale Migration Update. Have a Nice Summer.

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