Subject: Satellite tagging

Phil Clapham (
Tue, 05 Oct 1999 09:43:06 -0400


Thanks for the great question.  Tagging whales is not an easy thing to
do.  Unlike land animals they don't have necks, so you can't just put a
collar on them.  Tags are generally attached to the outside of the whale
using suction cups (they don't stay on very long) or implanted under the
whale's skin in the blubber.  Recently, tags have been staying on a lot
longer, mostly because a scientist named Bruce Mate has developed a much
better system for attachment.

The number of whales tagged each year varies, but it's always pretty
small.  This is because the tagging isn't easy to do, and also because
satellite tags are very expensive - about five thousand dollars each. 
Recently, the most commonly tagged species have been humpback and blue

Tagging doesn't save whales' lives, but it does give us very important
information that may help to save them.  Tagging tells us where whales
go, and how much time they spend in areas of high risk - places where
there is a lot of shipping or fishing gear.  this is especially true for
right whales (the rarest of all whales), which get hit by ships or
entangled in fishing gear a lot.  Knowing more about their movements
really helps us to focus on the problem areas.

Best wishes to you all in Ireland,

Phil Clapham

Staff at St. Brigids NS wrote:
> How many whales are tagged each year in the satellite tagging programme.?Has
> the programme helped to save the lives of many whales?from sixth class, St.
> Brigid's national school.Ireland.


Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
Large Whale Biology Program
Northeast Fisheries Science Center
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543

tel (508) 495-2316
fax (508) 495-2066