Subject: JJ the gray whale returns home (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Wed, 1 Apr 1998 08:00:25 -0500 (EST)

Date: Tue, 31 Mar 1998 15:29:46 -0500
From: Dagmar Fertl <Dagmar_Fertl@mms.gov>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
     <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA>
To: MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA
Subject: newsclip - JJ the gray whale returns home

     J.J. the whale returns to her ocean home

     March 31, 1998


     SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- The first California gray whale rescued as an
     infant last year and raised by humans was returned to the Pacific
     Ocean Tuesday after a transport operation by road and sea befitting
     the mammal's size and weight.

     The 32-foot long, 18,000-pound (9.7 meters, 40,000 kilograms)
     whale was hoisted off the deck of a Coast Guard cutter and
     released from a sling. She splashed briefly before plunging
     underwater.

     J.J. has several challenges ahead of her: dodging predators and
     avoiding fishing nets.

     The whale started her journey back to sea on a bed of foam
     rubber in an open-topped 18-wheel truck, while handlers misted
     her down with water and piped in whale sounds to calm her.

     After the one-hour, 12-mile trip to the U.S. Navy pier at San
     Diego Bay, her specially made sling was strapped to a crane and
     hoisted onto the cutter for the final leg of her journey home to the
     wild.

     Keepers at Sea World had raised her ever since she was washed ashore
     as a newborn in the surf off Los Angeles' Marina del Rey on January
     11, 1997.

     J.J. was malnourished, dehydrated and undersized, leading authorities
     to believe she was abandoned by her mother during the migration south
     to Baja California, where most gray whales are born. Her umbilical
     cord was still attached and she was too young and too sick to survive
     on her own.

     Marine biologists, desperate to learn more about the gray whale
     species, took a chance on J.J., transporting her 120 miles to San
     Diego's Sea World for emergency care.

     The hope was that she would live so researchers could study her in
     a controlled environment and then track her once released back to
     the sea.

     Scientists will now monitor J.J. by boat for the first three or four
     days. Then they will use four electronic transmitters attached to
     J.J.'s back to monitor her movements. If the batteries don't fail and
     J.J. doesn't knock out the transmitters, researchers can watch her
     for as long as 18 months.

     One critical point for her will be Monterey Bay, where killer
     whales, natural predators of gray whales, live in large numbers.

     "We're not certain if her avoidance of predators is
     instinctive or learned behavior," Sea World curator Jim Antrim
     said. "This is one way we might learn that."

     Another behavior researchers hope to understand is a popping
     noise gray whales make. Ann Bowles, who studied J.J.'s
     vocalizations and played her those of her fellow whales, believes it
     may be a navigational tool.

     "J.J. didn't make those noises in her pool," Bowles said. "There
     was no need, since she knew her boundaries. That's why we believe the
     sounds are used in navigation. Maybe now, we'll find out."

     If J.J. doesn't migrate, it doesn't mean Sea World will take her
     back to their tank. Joe Cordaro, a wildlife biologist for the
     National Marine Fisheries, said researchers won't intervene if J.J.
     is attacked or if her demise is because of a natural occurrence.

     "Once she returns to the ocean, she has the status of a free-ranging
     marine animal," he said. "That means she'll have to make it own her
     own."