The Right Whale named METOMPKIN:
Her Story of Survival


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Chapter 7

The transmitter sends Metompkin's exact latitude and longitude to a satellite, which then forwards the information to a central computer and then to New England. Aquarium scientists use this information to keep track of Metompkin for 6 months, hoping all the while that she will swim near enough to shore to allow for another attempt to disentangle her.

It is unfortunate that the rough sea conditions did not allow this disentanglement to happen. However, the information provided from tagging Metompkin may give scientists this opportunity in the future. At the very least a great deal more is learned about right whale movements around Cape Hatteras and migration patterns as a result of the information collected from the radio and satellite tags.

We now know of 5 areas used by the North Atlantic Right whale population:

1. coastal Florida and Georgia
2. Great South Channel east of Cape Cod, MA
3. Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bays
4. Bay of Fundy and
5. Brown and Baccaro Banks south of Nova Scotia.

Click for larger map

Right whales in the Western North Atlantic population migrate two times each year, some spending spring and summer off the coast of New England, and late summer and fall in waters off southern Canada to feed. During the winter, some go to the only known calving area in the coastal waters of Georgia and Florida, where the water is warm for the newborn whales.

Question - [What is "migration", and why is it important for these whales to move from one area to another?]
Question - [ Why would it be dangerous for a right whale baby to be born in cold water?]

This small population of right whales has been studied over the past 16 years using such tools as photo identification, genetic analysis of small skin samples, and, in recent years, radio and satellite telemetry. Most of the right whales have been photographed and matched to the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog assembled by the New England Aquarium. This catalog has proven to be an important tool for studying these individual animals. Reproductive rates, ages of sexual maturity, shifts in distribution, and estimated mortality rates have all been documented through this database.

Metompkin, #1707, has a well documented history in the right whale catalog. Her movements, as well as many other right whales, from the end of February through the middle of July have previously been a mystery. This makes the satellite and radio tagging information even more interesting and important to understanding the sighting history of this individual and the natural history of this population of northern right whales.

Question - [Where do you think she is during the early spring months?]

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