Right Whale Migration Update: May 24, 2000
Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
My apologies for not sending in a report two weeks ago, but a variety of projects have eaten up time for our small staff at the sanctuary. This will be my final report for the season.
Scientists Discuss Low Pregnancy Rate in Conference
As was noted in earlier reports, there was only one confirmed mother-calf pair spotted in the calving grounds, the area off the coast of northern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The few whales that did get down to that area (including some males and non-pregnant females) were gone by the end of February. Scientists are worried about this drop in the birth rate for these whales. The past two years were also low, 3 last year and 5 live/1 stillborn in '97-98. A workshop on the Causes of Reproductive Failure in North Atlantic Right Whales was held during the last week in April.
Five Possible Reasons for Low Rates
Local News from Cape Cod
Locally, whales have departed from Cape Cod Bay their late winter feeding ground and are now being seen in the Great South Channel and on Georges Bank. A whale was recently spotted in Wilkinson Basin east of Stellwagen Bank that was entangled in fishing gear. A disentanglement team from the Center for Coastal Studies (on a humpback whale research cruise sponsored by the Stellwagen Sanctuary) was diverted to the whale's location to attempt a rescue. Unsuccessfully carried through, unfortunately.
Where Oh Where Could That Little Whale Be?
Reports from the New England Aquarium's Right Whale Research Group indicate that the right whales have not yet started to appear in the Bay of Fundy (their summer feeding ground). Also, they don't expect to see the one mother-calf pair. This particular mother is an off-shore whale that has never been seen in Cape Cod Bay or the Bay of Fundy. Where this whale might be going is a mystery.
Scientist Uses Historic Whaling Journals to Plot Research Trip
Good Bye for the Season from Anne Smrcina
That's all for this final Right Whale Report. I'd like to thank you all for your interest in this fascinating creature. Let's hope that future Journey North reports, next year and beyond, will have more positive findings about the recovery of this most endangered great whale. This is Anne Smrcina, education coordinator for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, signing off for this season.
Discussion of Challenge Question #13, Clocking the Whale's Odometer
Thanks to the Fourth Grade students at Margaret Ashley Academy, in Mrs. Patterson's Class (firstname.lastname@example.org) for all your calculating!
Big Whales Weigh A Lot: Discussion of Challenge Question # 14
It is hard to even imagine a mammal as large as a whale! Right whales can grow to be 12 - 16.5 meters (40-55 feet)in length, and can weigh up to 63.5 metric tons! We asked, "How many pounds is that? What weighs the same as a right whale? (How many elephants?) How much does the right whale's blubber weigh?"
Do you know your math for finding out how many pounds 63.5 metric tons equals?
Well, a ton is 2200 pounds. So, to find your answer, you need do some simple multiplication: 63.5 tons X 2200 pounds per ton =139,700 pounds
How Many Elephants Does it Take to Balance a See-Saw?
Maybe it is easier to imagine that weight in elephants, since many of us have seen elephants and know how big they are! How many elephants would it take to weigh as much as one right whale? The male African elephant can weigh up to six tons. Imagine a see-saw with one right whale on one side and 10 elephants on the other! That's a funny picture!
Back to Blubber
Challenge Question #15-Whales are Big Eaters: How Much Do They Eat?
"What percent of the total weight of a whale does a whale eat each day? How much would you need to eat each day if you were eating as much as a whale?"
To solve this question, you need to do some clever calculations. Right whales eat about a ton of food a day. They weigh about 63.5 tons. To find the percentage of food to their weight, you will need to divide 1 ton by 63.5 tons. This gives you .0173. Multiply this number by 100 to get the percent and you end up with 1.73 percent.
How much yould you need to eat each day if you were eating as much as a whale? If you weigh 100 pounds, you would only need to eat 1.73 pounds of food. That isn't much, in fact, if your are eating a balanced diet, you would lose weight on that much food. Whales don't lose weight. Whales eat surprisingly less than you might think! They are very efficient about the food (calories) they consume!
Right whales may be eating up to a ton of food a day and humpbacks are probably consuming 1,500 pounds of sand lance and other small schooling fish. Since right whales are eating tiny copepods, 4,000 of which may fit in a teaspoon, now that's a lot of animals! The larger the whale, the more food it needs.
This is the FINAL Right Whale Migration Update for 2000. Learning about the Right Whale is the first step towards helping save them for our lifetime and that of our childrens' and grandchildrens'. We hope you learned some new things and we would love to have you join us next year for another season of following the migration of the Right Whale.
Copyright 2000 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form