Iconic right whale WART returns to Cape Cod Bay – first sighting since April 2013
Sunday, February 9, 2014
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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.”
The Center has conducted right whale research in Cape Cod Bay since the early 1980s. Every winter season since that time between 1/3 and Â½ of the total right whale population, now estimated to number 510, has been documented in the bay by CCS scientists.
Unfortunately a significant decrease in Federal funding has severely curtailed the team’s research activities; right whale habitat research cruises have been slashed from 16 per season to just four, and the number of aerial survey hours has also been cut.
“There is no doubt that the reduction in funding will adversely affect our work on these nearly extinct animals” said Mayo. “The right whales are appearing in Cape Cod Bay earlier, and staying longer and we need to find out why that pattern is changing.” Mayo added ” The future of the right whales of the North Atlantic Ocean depends in large part how well we understand the impact on the whales of the changing environmental conditions of their critical habitat in Cape Cod Bay.”
Right whale research is conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and supported by a grant from MA-DMF and by funding from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, private foundations and CCS members. All right whale research activities are conducted under NOAA Fisheries permit 14603, under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.
Boaters are reminded that it is illegal to approach within 500 yards of a right whale without a federal permit.