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 August cruise.
After spending two days on land to recoup and resupply from our first leg out in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we then logged eight straight days at sea collecting a variety of data in much nicer weather.
And we were not alone out there! Every day, we were communicating with colleagues both on and above the water from Northeast Fisheries Science Center/NOAA and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Collaboration is the name of the game in this field, particularly in the right whale community, where, given the current status of the population, we are in an all-hands-on-deck situation.
In addition to documenting 207 sightings of at least 76 individuals (photo processing still underway), we also successfully biopsy darted two whales—Chiminea (Catalog #4040) and a currently uncatalogued individual known as G046! The results from these skin and blubber samples will go into a genetic database that links family trees and allows us to identify decomposed carcasses.
Of all the right whales we photographed, some whales looked to be in fairly good health (fat, black skin, etc.), but many others did not (skinny, gray skin, lesions, deep and raw wounds, etc.). After nine right whale deaths in the Gulf earlier this summer, it was a relief to not discover any new carcasses. However, the visibly poor health of some of these animals is a stark reminder that this species is still suffering.
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.