The Good, the Bad, and the Surveys

With a good stretch of weather at the end of July, our core team of four was able to survey three days in a row, which kind of makes you feel like an Olympian when you’re up at 5 AM and working 14 hours a day. Following our July 30 survey, we decided to head to a different location for our second day out to make sure we weren’t missing another aggregation of right whales. While we did find three right whales, the eastern part of the Bay seemed to be the outskirt of the concentration.

Getting a close look at "Portato." Photo: Elizabeth Burgess

On our third survey day, August 1, the whales were difficult to see due to the calm sea state and we relied on listening for blows to find them. Several new individuals were photographed, but we ran out of time before getting to all of the animals and had to leave five whales unphotographed. What we documented late in the day was bittersweet, as the following photographs are terrible but invaluable to our database.

Catalog #3323 was last seen on April 12, 2014 in Cape Cod Bay by our colleagues at the Center for Coastal Studies. We don’t know where he spent the past two years, but at some point along the way he became entangled in fishing gear which has left him in poor shape and with healing wounds covered in orange cyamids. Although he was only born in 2003, he has been entangled two other times that we know of.

#3323's tail stock prior to this entanglement. Photo: Jessica Taylor
New wounds covered by cyamids on #3323. Photo: Elizabeth Burgess

The last sighting of Catalog #2608 was August 26, 2015 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. His entanglement in fishing gear appears to have been severe and very recent, as his wounds are raw, open, and still shedding dead skin. His condition is expected to decline before getting better. Unfortunately this will be his fourth known entanglement event.

#2608 has been entangled in gear before. Photo: Chris Slay
New, raw wounds on #2608. Photo: Moira Brown

Sadly, as you’ll read in future blogs about this Bay of Fundy season, these are not the only whales we’ve seen that are in terrible shape. It’s so disheartening to come across these sick and wounded animals. However, it’s vital for us to witness, document, and share their condition, otherwise we wouldn’t know that life isn’t getting any easier for this endangered species.