Sneaky subsurface skimmers

We had a lovely day out on the water yesterday and the CCS (Center for Coastal Studies) plane even found us #2123 – Couplet. The only problem was that she was over 20 miles away from where we launch out of Sandwich…

The blue marker is where the mother/calf pair was seen. The red marker is where we launch our boat...

The blue marker is where the mother/calf pair was seen. The red marker is Sandwich, where we launch our boat…

It was still early in the afternoon, and Selkie can move pretty fast (25+ knots), so normally we wouldn’t have even questioned whether we should go. This is Cape Cod however, and the trouble with the Cape is that there can be hundreds of feeding right whales around. What’s more, if they are subsurface feeding, you might never even know it! To keep both them and us safe, it is prudent to travel at pretty slow speeds (less than 10 knots or so). At that speed we wouldn’t make it to the pair for another 2 hours at least! We went for it anyway. We did find the pair, however we didn’t manage to get a tag on her. We didn’t get to spend nearly as much time working as we would have liked because we had to factor in a 2+ hour transit back to Sandwich, all before sunset!

We made our way back slowly and uneventfully, only seeing a few right whales pop up here and there. When we got the end of the day update from the CCS plane we were surprised to hear that they had ~145 right whales in and around the Bay yesterday! This is a perfect example of why feeding right whales in Cape Cod Bay are at such a high risk from ship strike; a paper by Parks et al. 2012 showed that feeding right whales in this habitat spend the majority of their time just subsurface where they can’t be seen, but are shallow enough to be vulnerable to vessel collision. Dangerous dining indeed! Hopefully we will back out soon!

Yesterday’s trash removal included a rubber trash can and a gold balloon. We also saw several other balloons and a cutting board that we weren’t able to retrieve.

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