Subject: Right whales

Lindsay J Porter (
Wed, 8 Apr 1998 11:54:38 +0800 (HKT)

>How far does an average right whale travel in a day, and how fast do they
>Matt Marron
>How do you keep track of all the tags on the whales and other animals?
Jackie Richards
>Do you have any other plans of ways to saave the right whales, other 
>than tagging and following them?
>Shane Kligerman

Dear Shane, Jackie and Matt,

As you may know, Right whales migrate and their daily travelling depends on
what part of their annual cycle they are in.  During the late summer months
they appear to be in the Bay of Fundy area where they feed and socialise (I
was on board research yacht Song of the Whale last August and Sepember in
this area and participated in some acoustic and photo-identification studies
of the Right whales - absolutely amazing!  Look at Songs website for
additional information  Right Whales then
travel south to (see Florida sightings) to calve.  During periods of feeding
the whales seem to stay in one area for soem time - and travelling speeds
during migration can be monitored by analysing the data from satellite tags
(see WhaleNet section on Right Whales)

As for keeping track of tags - tags such as Satellite sand their information
to satellite and teh information can then be transferred to an earth
receiver.  This means that tags can be 'followed' without having to
continually go to sea and see the actual tag.  Other tags, manmade or
'natural marks' (which are used to identify individuals) have to be
systemmatically searched for in areas where the species is known to occur.
Then a inventory of sightings, frequency of sightings and movements can be
catalogued thereby allowng an insight of the individuals life cycle.  Any
such programme which uses marker 'tags' (rather than satellite/radio)
involves a large amout of time on the water (or air) watching, observing and
noting locations of known animals. 

Tagging (natural/satellite) is a very useful way of 'keeping' track of the
daily, monthly, and yearly cyles of individuals.  Without this knowledge
(which over the long term yields information mortality and birth rates) it
would be impossible to devise an effective conservation strategy which can
truely 'save' or 'protect' a species.  Appart from understanding all that we
can from tagging projects and behavioural observations, there are state and
federal laws in place to prohibit the intrusion of ships within certan
distances of whales.  Observer programms also alert ships to the presence of
rigjt whales within a certain area thereby making helmsman more aware and
hopefully more cautious while moving.  Additionally, the New England
Aquarium have a tea which will fly immediately to teh aid of an entangled
whale - and attempt to un-entangle it.  There is also some liasion with the
fishing community and development of fishing gear that does not entagle
whales are easily as current nets and lines, etc.  Some areas are restricted
and fishing cannot occur ther e - again reducing entanglement risks.
Additionally, education programmes (such as those featured on WhaleNet)
increase pubic awareness again assisting coservation efforts through support
and funding.

Please check out the following websites for a more in-depth discussion of
Right Whale research and conservation.  

New England Aquarium
Right whales Florida

hope this information answers your questions
best wishes
Lindsay J Porter
Dolphin Research Group
The Swire Institute of Marine Science
The University of Hong Kong
Cape d'Aguilar
Hong Kong