Closing out the season

Overall this season has been a resounding success. The number of right whale calves for the season has reached 20, with new mothers still being sighted in mid-February. We have collected behavioral and acoustic data from a good cross section of the population, got a glimpse into underwater behavior from a tag attachment and even have more than one follow for some mother-calf pairs, giving us insight into how the pair’s behavior changes as the calves mature.

I’m excited that I was able to return for the next to last week of the season to check in with the field team. I’m also excited to get another short break from the winter weather in Syracuse. It was 70 when I left Florida in January, and 7 degrees when I arrived in Syracuse. Although this past week has been relatively cool in Florida, the sun, sand and ocean are a nice break from clouds, salt and snow.

I managed to get out on the water for 2 days out of the 5 that I was in Fernandina, which is very unusual for me. For the past few years, I typically get out < 1 day every two weeks in the field. We had great luck out on the water. The aerial survey teams were able to direct us to mother-calf pairs both days, and we were able to collect behavioral and acoustic data. The entire field team is working together well and I was mostly an extra set of hands while they ran the show. Both mother-calf pairs approached the vessel when we were drifting with the engine shut down, recording both the sounds in the environment and the behavior of the whales. Here is Dana’s nice picture of one of the mothers approaching the boat that I photobombed at the last second.

Photo taken by D. Cusano, under NMFS Permit #775-1875-02

Our time in Florida is winding down, the team will be packing up all the equipment and heading North soon, where the research will continue in Cape Cod Bay when the whales start migrating up the coast. Check out the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Service website to follow North Atlantic right whale sightings.


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