A humpback whale mother
and calf. Traditionally, the
age of a living humpback
whale can only be known if it
was documented while still
accompanying its mother in
the first year of life.
Image taken by CCS,
under NOAA permit 633-1778.
Scientists have developed the first DNA-based test for estimating the age of humpback whales, based on decades of population studies off New England and recent advances in human medicine. The research was conducted by the Australian Antarctic Division, in collaboration with the Center for Coastal Studies (Provincetown, Massachusetts), and the Australian Genome Research Facility.
The method looks at age-related changes in the DNA of skin samples that can be collected from living whales with minimal disturbance.
The new test relies on changes in the 'DNA methylation' of genes involved in the ageing process. DNA methylation is a biochemical process where a methyl group (CH3) is added to specific DNA building-blocks. This process alters the expression of genes.
"We used information on age-associated DNA methylation in human and mouse genes to identify similar gene regions in humpback whales." said Dr Simon Jarman, a molecular biologist with the Australian Antarctic Division. "We then developed an assay using three of the most informative methylated genes, which estimates age with a high level of precision." ...more
Yesterday afternoon researchers from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown spotted a right whale known to local researchers as "Wart" in Cape Cod Bay.
Wart is one of the iconic whales of Cape Cod Bay; she was freed from a life-threatening entanglement by the Center's Marine Animal Entanglement Response team in 2010, and three year later, in January 2013, she was spotted in Cape Cod Bay with a new born calf - a rare occurrence, as right whales usually give birth in the warmer waters off Georgia and Florida.
On Saturday the Center's right whale aerial research team, led by researcher Corey Accardo, spotted Wart during the team's regular survey of Cape Cod Bay.
"This season we have identified a total of three right whales that are known to have given birth last winter" said flight coordinator Corey Accardo. "The other two whales have been identified as Catspaw, sighted on Jan 16 and 17; and Piper, spotted on February 1."
Dr Charles "Stormy" Mayo, Director of the Center's Right Whale research program, commented "The sighting of Wart reminds us that Cape Cod Bay is important both to a large part of the remaining population of this extremely rare whale and also to the mature female whales on which the future of the species depends." ...more
Right whale in Cape Cod Bay tail-slaps the
water surface (May 2013)
CCS image under NOAA permit #14603.
On Sunday afternoon a research team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, flying a survey over Cape Cod Bay, spotted 12 rare and critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Although there have been reports of right whales in the Bay since the beginning of November, this sighting was the first of the season confirmed by the Center scientists.
The return of right whales to their usual winter feeding grounds lays to rest concerns that were raised earlier this year when it was reported that the whales were 'missing' from their usual summer feeding habitats in the Gulf of Maine.
"These are changing times" commented Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, director of the Right Whale Research Program at the Center. "It appears that the distribution of the whales is changing and that Cape Cod Bay is becoming an increasingly favored feeding location in the North Atlantic Ocean. The whales are arriving earlier and in greater numbers than we have seen before."
Center scientists whose studies resulted in the federal designation of Cape Cod Bay as a critical habitat for the species have been studying the right whales in the bay since 1976. ...more
Responders from the Center for
Coastal Studies and the USCG
work to free an entangled
Photo by Danielle Monaghan
of the Marine Mammal
Stranding Center (MMSC)
under NOAA permit 932-1905.
Today, members of the Marine Animal Entanglement team at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown (CCS MAER) successfully freed a juvenile humpback whale entangled in fishing gear off the coast of New Jersey.
The whale was spotted yesterday by a marine mammal observer aboard a dredge working in the area. The entanglement was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard, who remained on stand-by overnight to monitor the animal and keep the area clear of boaters.
NOAA Fisheries, the Federal agency charged with the monitoring whale populations, contacted the CCS MAER team yesterday afternoon, and the Provincetown responders have been at the scene since 8 am this morning.
Scott Landry, Director of the MAER program, reported that the humpback had line wrapped around its tail and was effectively anchored to the seafloor. Landry and fellow CCS MAER responder Jenn Tackaberry made a single cut through the line and the gear dropped away. After a few minutes the whale swam off, gear free. ...more
Members of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown (CCS MAER) are leading efforts to free a juvenile humpback whale entangled in fishing gear off the coast of New Jersey.
The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a vessel to the area yesterday and collected information, photographs and video of the whale; this information allowed responders to assess the entanglement and determine the best course of action to free the animal. The 87' vessel, from USCG Station Cape May, remained on stand-by close to the whale overnight.
NOAA Fisheries, the Federal agency charged with the monitoring whale populations, contacted the Center for Coastal Studies MAER team yesterday afternoon, and the Provincetown-based responders have been at the scene, about two miles east of the Manasquan Inlet, since 8 am this morning. The NJ-based Brigantine Stranding Group is also assisting in the rescue efforts.
"We are very grateful to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Center for Coastal Studies and the Brigantine Stranding Group for their help," said David Morin, Disentanglement Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries. "We also want to remind concerned members of the public that the best thing they can do to help is provide room for authorized responders to do their work. Responders are trained to help an animal in distress, without causing further injury to the animal or to themselves." ...more
On November 22, 2013 the Center for Coastal Studies will present the 2013 Chase-Miller Forum at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The theme is Shifting Coasts - Planning and Action in a Changing Environment.
This half-day conference will discuss regional planning challenges created by sea level rise and coastal change.
The Keynote Address, "Land-use Planning in the Dynamic Coastal Zone - an Overview of Challenges posed by a Changing Coastal Environment", will be presented by Chad McGuire, Assistant Professor, Public Policy at UMass, Dartmouth.
Other topics and speakers include:
Assessing Vulnerability and Raising Local Awareness of Risks from Storms, Changing Shorelines and Sea Level Rise in Buzzards Bay (Joe Costa, PhD, Executive Director of the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, MCZM)
Encouraging Construction and Reconstruction of Storm-Resistant Buildings and Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through Financial Incentives and a Zoning Overlay District in Hull (Anne Herbst, Conservation Agent & Robert Fultz, Director of Planning and Community Development)...more
Responders from the Center for
Coastal Studies and the USCG
work to free an entangled
PCCS image under Permit # 50 CFR 222.310.
A large leatherback sea turtle was disentangled today in Nantucket Sound by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies' Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) and the US Coast Guard. This turtle was one of 18 leatherbacks freed so far this season by the Massachusetts Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network (MASTDN), a consortium of first responders trained and equipped to handle these endangered species.
The turtle was anchored in the buoy line of fishing gear, just offshore of Hyannis, and was found by commercial fishermen who offered to stand by the struggling animal. Coast Guard station Chatham responded quickly with a team member from MAER at the Center for Coastal Studies. They found a 500 pound animal with an extremely tight wrap of the right front flipper. The turtle was carefully disentangled, leaving no rope on its body that could pose a threat to the turtle over time.
This was the 44th sea turtle entanglement recorded by MASTDN this season - a record number, though the season may last well into October. ...more
Leatherback sea turtle freed on
Tuesday in Cape Cod Bay.
PCCS image under NOAA permit
50 CFR 222.310
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies disentangled a large leatherback sea turtle yesterday afternoon in Cape Cod Bay.
Visitors walking along the jetty at the east entrance to the Cape Cod Canal noticed the turtle thrashing in some fishing gear just offshore. They called in the sighting quickly and stayed on the jetty, keeping the turtle in sight until the MAER team arrived. The turtle was released quickly and appeared in good condition.
This is the tenth confirmed sea turtle entanglement case off Massachusetts this season - an unusually high number for July. Only a few of these turtles have been released so far, due mainly to the fact that mariners did not know to report the sightings immediately and to stay with the animal at a safe distance until a response plan has been made.
Leatherback turtles visit Massachusetts waters each summer to feed; they migrate out of the region in late-Fall, heading to breeding and nesting areas in the Caribbean. ...more
Center for Coastal Studies Marine
Animal Entanglement Response
team attached large buoys to the
shark to keep it at the surface.
(Credit: CCS MAER)
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown (CCS) disentangled a large basking shark in Cape Cod Bay yesterday. This was the first confirmed entanglement report in the region for the year. The shark was released after a two-hour operation and appeared in relatively good condition.
The animal was reported by recreational boaters who stood by until the MAER team arrived, a few miles south of Wood End Light, Provincetown. The boaters were unsure about the species of animal involved and thought perhaps it was a small whale. The MAER team was surprised to find an 18-20 foot basking shark entangled in a buoy line. The shark had rope through its mouth and around each flipper and was slowly swimming as it dragged fishing gear at the sea floor.
The shark was able to dive deeply and showed a strong aversion to approaches by the response vessel Ibis. The team used a grappling hook and tether to add large floats to its entanglement in an effort to keep it at the surface. The team then made a series of cuts to the entanglement using a hook-shaped knife and long pole which eventually allowed the shark to unwrap itself from the entanglement. ...more
Lauduree (Perla Haney-Jardine) is
a 13-year-old loner,
passionate about nature and
obsessed with ecological disaster
The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies is delighted to announce that Jenny Deller, writer and producer of the powerful film Future Weather is the keynote speaker at the Center's upcoming Homeport Banquet. Acclaimed actress Lili Taylor, star of Future Weather, Six Feet Under, and many other stage and screen productions, is this year's guest of honor.
Future Weather, which opens the Science-on-Film Mini-Festival at Waters Edge cinema on April 19, is an award-winning drama about finding the courage to survive change. Lili Taylor plays Ms Markovi, an environmentally-active science teacher whose student, Lauduree (Perla Haney-Jardine), is a 13-year-old loner, passionate about nature and obsessed with ecological disaster. Greta (Amy Madigan), Lauderee's grandmother, is a fiery nurse jaded by alcohol and disappointment. When Lauduree is abruptly abandoned by her dreamer single mom she decides to take survival into her own hands, forcing her and Greta to rethink their futures. ...more
The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) has received a grant from the Fishing For Energy program to assess and recover derelict, lost or abandoned fishing gear from the seabed in Provincetown and Wellfleet harbors. The project will begin with side-scan sonar surveys to quantify the presence of gear and identify recovery targets. PCCS is soliciting 4-8 Cape Cod Bay commercial fishing vessels to participate in the marine debris clean-up, working in known areas of gear presence as well as in locations identified with sonar, through March 15, 2013. Participating vessels will receive a fuel stipend of $650/day for a maximum of six days.
Qualified commercial fishing vessels must be rigged for lobstering or dragging and have working electronics to provide depth and location and to facilitate safe navigation; provide adequate crew to perform work on-board and at the dock and who are knowledgeable in handling grapple and derelict fishing gear; and have equipment capable of towing and hauling a grapple or drag laden with gear up to one ton in force. ...more
North Atlantic right whale "Wart" with her
new calf, photographed today in Plymouth
Harbor by PCCS right whale aerial survey
team. PCCS image under NOAA Fisheries permit
The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation today confirmed that a female right whale and her calf are spending time off Plymouth, Massachusetts. The sighting of a mother and calf right whale in January is very early for Cape Cod Bay and this is by far the earliest on record for PCCS, which has been conducting aerial surveys for right whales since 1997. It is believed that the vast majority of right whale births occur off the coasts of Georgia and Florida between January and December, with mother/calf pairs returning to feeding grounds, like Cape Cod Bay, in early-April. While it is unknown where or exactly this mother gave birth, it is clear that calf is very young.
This sighting is particularly important because of the identity of the mother, which was confirmed late today by researchers at New England Aquarium. Wart, as she is known, was last seen in May 2010, just days after being disentangled from fishing gear by the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team at PCCS. The team had made six attempts over three years to remove a life-threatening entanglement. They were finally successful in 2010 thanks to a novel disentanglement tool that they had recently developed. However, the lack of resightings once she was free resulted in concerns about her fate. ...more
Right whale images taken under NOAA Fisheries permit 633-1763, under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts - please request PCCS permission for use.
Photographs were taken under the authority of NMFS Permit No. 932-1489 issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. This statement must accompany the image(s) in all subsequent uses.
Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. Taken under NOAA permit 932-1905, with authority of the ESA.