BOSTON, MA (Nov. 21, 2017) – A recent aerial survey of the remote Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument revealed an exceptional abundance and diversity of marine mammals. Researchers with the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Center for Ocean Life were surprised to see the unusual mix of dolphins, large whales and rarely-seen beaked whales last week in the federally protected  habitat located  130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. Located on the edge of the continental shelf as it drops off into deep sea, the U.S.’s first marine national monument in the Atlantic is more renowned for its relatively undisturbed cold water corals, undersea canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon and its dormant, giant volcanoes.

Heading up the marine wildlife reconnaissance flight was Dr. Ester Quintana. She reported, We made 27 observations of marine life during the approximately four-hour survey, an extraordinary number for such a small area. This included sightings of bottlenose dolphins (25), common dolphins (58), Risso’s dolphins (37), Cuvier’s beaked whales (11), finback whales (4), and one sperm whale. Several animals were observed feeding and – except for fin whales and the sperm whale – all other groups contained calves or juveniles. This is an extraordinary collection of species, because it shows that animals in this area are feeding at many different trophic levels.”

“This survey adds to our analysis showing the incredible diversity and abundance of marine mammals in the Northeast Canyons National Monument and supports the idea that this area as worthy of complete protection, stated Dr. Scott Kraus, vice president for research at the Anderson Cabot Center. “The number of calves and young animals among the dolphin groups was very high – it’s beginning to look like a nursery. Given that this is the only fully protected ocean habitat in the US waters of the Atlantic, the canyons and seamounts monument is looking more precious with every survey.”

Researchers at the New England Aquarium and the Mystic Aquarium have been the principal sources of biological information on the monument’s habitat.

BLOG LINK WITH MORE DETAIL OF THE SURVEY:  Aerial Team Conducts Northeast Canyons Marine National Monument Survey

IMAGES: This Dropbox link has high-resolution photos of  a fin whale, a group of Risso’s dolphins (see image above), and a sperm whale swimming near the surface. There is a also map of the monument.  Credit: Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.


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