Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

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      Friday, December 16, 2011

    PCCS Contact:
    Cathrine Macort
    +1-508-487-3622 x103

    Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Announces First Confirmed Sighting
    of Critically-Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales

    Right whale breaching in Cape Cod Bay.
    The first confirmed sighting of North Atlantic right whales in Cape Cod Bay was recorded on Thursday, December 15th by Charles "Stormy" Mayo, Director of Right Whale Habitat Studies at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. The two to three whales were spotted in Provincetown Harbor, opposite the east end of Provincetown. Mayo remarked that "the whales were putting on a show the likes of which I've never ever seen except from humpbacks; perhaps 100 breaches, some simultaneous side by side." When not breaching, the whales formed a Surface Active Group (SAG), a type of social behavior between two or more whales that involves frequent body contact, often with whales rolling on their sides or backs. SAGs are thought to play a role in mating; however, because they occur throughout the year, many scientists believe that they have other social functions as well. North Atlantic right whales, Eubalaena glacialis, are among the rarest of the baleen whale species, with a population of approximately 473. Cape Cod Bay is a rich feeding ground for these massive animals; in the first half of 2011, more than 320 individuals (almost three-quarters of the total population) were spotted by scientists in the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies right whale population and habitat research programs. Researchers at the Center have studied right whales, their use of Cape Cod Bay and their habitat requirements for more than thirty years. Current research includes aerial surveillance, habitat and food resource monitoring, the acoustic behavior of right whales, and investigations into the effects of long-term climate change on the population of right whales. PCCS right whale research is conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Right whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to approach within 500 yards of a right whale. PCCS conducts research under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 and dedicated to preserving coastal and marine ecosystems and providing educational activities that promote the responsible stewardship of our oceans.

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