On July 18, a team of researchers headed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence (GSL) on first of two two-week vessel surveys for right whales. The team members represent the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, Dalhousie University, and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Supported by aerial surveys, the vessel will search west of the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick, where right whale aggregations have been observed the past few years, to collect shipboard photographs, fecal and biopsy samples, and plankton samples.

ACCOL team members in a car.
Anderson Cabot Center team members Megan and Monica at the start of their long drive to GSL.

The GSL aerial surveys this year have been extremely insightful and allowed us to witness the growing presence of right whales starting in May. Fisheries in the area were closed to help prevent entanglement in gear, but on July 13 the Northeast Fisheries Science Center/DFO aerial team found Catalog #3312 with a long length of line through his mouth. Earlier in the day, this individual was seen free of gear, so this 15-year-old male was entangled in an area closed to fishing. He was not seen in the following days despite searches for him, and the teams continue to keep their eyes peeled for him.

Right Whale in the Bay of Fundy in 2009.
#3312 in the Bay of Fundy in 2009. Photo: Jess Taylor, NEAQ.

The GSL vessel team has had success in finding right whales since reaching the area of interest on July 19. For two days in a row, the team photographed one of the most beloved right whales – Calvin (Catalog #2223)! Folks who sponsor her through our program will be happy to know that she appears to be doing well.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for good weather so the vessel team can continue to collect valuable shipboard data and plankton samples!

Read more stories from the 2018 Field Season!