Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Acoustic buoy now detecting rare and endangered whales in New York Bight

Calls heard from North Atlantic right whales, one of the world's highly endangered whale species

Date: November 16, 2016
Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

An acoustic buoy recently deployed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and WCS's (Wildlife Conservation Society) New York Aquarium is making its first near real-time detections of two rare great whale species in the New York Bight, including the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale.

On November 14th, the hi-tech buoy named "Melville" detected the telltale "up call" of the North Atlantic right whale, one of the world's highly endangered whale species that numbers only 500 individual animals. It is the second detection of a North Atlantic right whale made by the buoy since October 26th. The acoustic buoy made another rare find on October 31st with the detection of a sei whale, a species that grows up to 65 feet in length and is rarely observed in New York waters.

North Atlantic right whales are particularly vulnerable to getting hit by ships, so any information on the whereabouts of these animals along the coast is important. Researchers from WCS and WHOI report that the North Atlantic right whale detected on October 26th was outside of the New York Harbor Seasonal Management Area (SMA), one of a series of zones along the eastern seaboard established to protect the slow-swimming whales with boat speed restrictions during their migration periods. Vessel speed restrictions for the mid-Atlantic seasonal management areas -- including the SMA in New York Bight -- runs between November 1st and April 30th.

"Having the ability to detect North Atlantic right whales and other species rarely seen in New York waters is extremely important given their endangered status," said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS's Ocean Giants Program and co-lead of the WCS New York Aquarium-WHOI project. "In particular, our ability to detect North Atlantic right whales in this area near the shipping lanes but outside these seasonal management areas will hopefully help with efforts to safeguard this highly endangered species in the New York Bight."

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