December 2014

December 12, 2014: A noticeable extension in right whale occupancy in Cape Cod Bay prompted us to schedule some flights in December as a part of the 2015 right whale season. Our goal? To determine when the whales appear in the bay, who they are (male, female, adult, juvenile?) and in what numbers.  This first survey of Cape Cod Bay was conducted in a north to south direction under clear skies. Unfortunately no right whales were sighted, but we did spot two fin whales. Hopefully we will see some right whales on the next survey.

Right whale 12/22/14 IMG_0208

Right whale feeding in Cape Cod Bay, December 2014. CCS image image, NOAA permit 14603

December 22, 2014: Press Release: Right whales return to Cape Cod Bay

Three right whales in CCB

Three right whales feeding at the surface. Cape Cod Bay, December 2014. CCS image, NOAA permit 14603.

On December 22 a research team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, flying a survey over Cape Cod Bay, spotted 7 rare and critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. This sighting was the first of the season confirmed by the Center scientists.

Center scientists have been studying the right whales in the bay since 1976. The Center’s aerial surveys, which take place weekly throughout  the Dec – May season, have shown that on average one-half of the total estimated population of 510 North Atlantic right whales have congregated in the Bay each winter and spring during the last 5 years, drawn by dense concentrations of the zooplankton upon which they feed.

Working closely with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Protected Resources, the research teams from the Center for Coastal Studies will be on the water and in the air when weather allows, documenting the whales and collecting samples to determine the concentration and type of zooplankton currently in the Bay. Comparisons of these data with those from previous years should eventually allow Center scientists to document ongoing changes in the whales’ critically important habitat and their use of its rich food resources.

CCS right whale research and response operations are conducted in partnership with DMF and NOAA under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Support also comes from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from CCS members.

December 30, 2014: Happy Holidays everyone! After our successful sightings of right whales on our last survey, the CCS Aerial Survey team flew a survey on Tuesday taking off out of Chatham Airport. The survey of Cape Cod Bay was conducted in a north to south direction under clear skies and unfortunately higher winds than we would have liked. Two fin whales were sighted on this survey, but alas no right whales. We hope to see some in the new year.