Researchers with the Right Whale Research Program at the Anderson Cabot Center were key members of two research cruises in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this summer. These are the updates from the July cruise.


The first Gulf of St. Lawrence research cruise has certainly been eventful! In these past two weeks, our team has surveyed six days, five of which were consecutively spent at sea. Our Anderson Cabot Center team has photographed 42 unique individual right whales, including two entangled right whales (Catalog #4423 and #4440), one mom (#3317) with calf, and many favorite old timers (Manta! Calvin! Arpeggio!). We’ve also collected one skin sample from a whale that we’ve attempted to biopsy in the past (#3380, Lemur).

Four whales at the surface during a SAG. Photo Courtesy: ACCOL/New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute

The plankton team from Dalhousie University and the University of New Brunswick St. John have also had success in meeting research goals, with 23 CTD cage deployments, ten plankton net tow samples collected, and recordings from four acoustic sonobuoys, including one from a surface active group (SAG) with ten right whales!

Three whales in a SAG. Photo Courtesy: ACCOL/New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute.

Although there are many right whales in the area we’ve spent time in, we haven’t photographed as many as there are present due to several factors—namely, the weather hasn’t been conducive to survey and photography (winds gusting to 44 kts, downpours, sea state5 and6). We spent most of July 5 documenting entangled #4440 and attempting to attach a satellite telemetry buoy  to him, and July 8 was spent observing right whales from a distance during plankton research.

Peduncle damage from the rope entangling #4440. Photo Courtesy: ACCOL/New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute.

On July 11, we had our busiest day yet—with aerial support from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center and DFO, we stood by the Campobello Whale Rescue Team (CWRT) as they attempted to disentangle #4423. While CWRT suspects they made a cut to one of the lines, the aerial team confirmed that the whale is still carrying gear and will need further disentanglement. With DFO’s supervision, we also removed five snow crab pots from the area that was closed to fishing several weeks prior (some of the gear had been reported to DFO as being lost).

“Calvin” was the second whale we photographed!

“Calvin” was the second whale we photographed! Photo Courtesy: ACCOL/New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute.

“Bocce” in unfavorable sea state.

“Bocce” in unfavorable sea state. Photo Courtesy: ACCOL/New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute.

We’re currently in port, waiting out wind and rain. There are a few decent looking days in the forecast, and we plan to make the most of them before our last boat day on July 23!

 


 

This work is made possible in part by the generosity of Irving Oil, lead sponsor of the New England Aquarium’s North Atlantic right whale research program.