Right Whale Migration Update: March 31, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
Whale Patrol--Any Calves Yet?
Air and sea patrols have been spotting lots of whales, but no mother-calf pairs up this way yet, reports Moira "Mo" Brown of the Center for Coastal Studies. Many of the whales appear to be adult females -- animals that are up here actively feeding rather than giving birth this year. Perhaps if they can stock up on food this spring and summer, we'll have a banner year in right whale calves next winter -- we can only hope!
Good News, Bad News?
Pat Gerrior of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Right Whale Alert Network has informed me that the mother-calf pair sighted off Long Island several weeks ago is apparently one of the pairs observed down south. That's both good and bad news -- good news that they made it up this far north safely, but bad news in that we still have a calf count of only three for the season.
Meanwhile, another four whales have been spotted near the Boston Traffic Lanes just outside the Great South Channel Critical Habitat. This area is usually quite popular with the right whales later in the spring.
The right whales are still feeding on copepods in Cape Cod Bay, and one is also staking a claim on the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank (it was observed by the first whalewatch vessel of the season). There has been some surface skim feeding, but most feeding behavior appears to be subsurface, with the zooplankton concentrated at 4-9 meters depth, according to work by Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo of the Center for Coastal Studies.
Here are the coordinates for the three locations I mentioned:
Discussion of Challenge Question #8: Living to a Ripe Old Age?
In my last report, I asked "What factors might prevent whales from reaching this ripe old age of 100? And what might be some of the causes of mortality other than old age?"
One last note: One March 16 a study was published
by the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that: if the current conditions
remain and the population growth rate stays the same, the right whale is doomed to
extinction (with the upper bound set at 191 years). That means, that within 200 years,
there could be no more right whales unless we do something soon to reduce mortalities
(deaths). The authors of this study were Hal Caswell and Masami Fujiwara of the Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institution and Solange Brault of the University of Massachusetts.
The Next Right Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on April 14, 1999.
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