Subject: Info: Blue Whales (fwd)

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Wed, 24 Jul 1996 09:03:07 -0400 (EDT)

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J. Michael Williamson
   Wheelock College
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.simmons.edu>
   Associate Professor-Science
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.566.7369

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 96 11:29:00 UTC 0000
From: r.mallon1@genie.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@whale.simmons.edu
Subject: Blue Whales

Blue Whales

   OFF THE CHANNEL ISLANDS, Calif. (AP) -- Large numbers of giant
endangered blue whales have gathered offshore, drawing dozens of
marine biologists who want to know why.
   Aboard six ships, scientists from the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration and other experts are working on a
three-week project this summer to tag and track the whales
electronically.
   Three blue whales were tagged and followed last week, but
scientists have seen many more.
   "This is cetacean soup out here," said Fred Benko, owner of a
private charter boat that shuttles scientists to and from their
research area.
   The mammals, some up to 100 feet long, have congregated about 20
miles west of the Channel Islands, which are about 25 miles
southwest of Santa Barbara and 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
   Scientists first noticed the increase in blue whales in local
waters in 1991, and a 1993 study indicated about 2,000 blue whales
along the California coast. Preliminary research suggests that the
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary contains the most
concentrated blue whale population in the world.
   The animals have been listed as endangered since 1966, victims
of the overzealous whaling industry in the first half of the
century. Scientists believe there once were 400,000 blue whales
roaming the world's oceans, but now only about 12,000.
   The blue whales feed on krill, a small, bright-red crustacean
similar to shrimp. But since the Channel Islands are hardly the
only place where krill thrive, researchers wonder what else might
be drawing the whales to the area.
   To tag the whales, scientists use a crossbow to fire a dart into
blubber on the creature's back. A computer records the depth and
length of every dive the whale takes.
   "It's important for me that people know that they have a
treasure out here," said sanctuary manager Ed Cassano. "This is
something everybody should be proud of. It's the jewel in the
crown."