Cape Cod: Good News, Bad News
All three mother-calf pairs observed in the SEUS this season (but not by us), including the elusive Catalog #1711 and calf, have successfully made the 800-mile migration north and been sighted in Cape Cod Bay. In addition, the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) discovered a fourth mother, Catalog #1412, in Cape Cod Bay. This female is rarely seen during any of the regular survey efforts; the last report was from Iceland in June 2003.
In contrast to the low count from the SEUS, the Cape Cod area has experienced a record high count. On Friday, 14 April, the CCS aerial survey crew spotted 206 individual right whales, or about 40% of the population. This gives hope to the idea that the population has not experienced a catastrophic event, but rather, was somewhere else (Where is still the big question!)
On this same day, there was some bad news (also from Cape Cod) with the sighting of a dead juvenile female. The cause of her death has not been conclusively determined. The 27-foot whale was the 2016 calf of Catalog #4094. We have somehistory with this mother-calf pair; the AirCam crew sighted them on 17 February 2016 about 1 3/4 miles off the beach in South Daytona. This was a young mother with her first calf. After nursing and weaning, a year later, the calf is dead.
We gathered to review our 2017 season at the Whitney Lab auditorium on Saturday, 25 March. Jim presented an overview, the issues facing right whales, and questions and possibilities for the 2018 season.
Next, Joy gave a presentation on our core asset―our people. Check out this video of the various teams and highlights of the season:
An April Scramble
On the morning of 17 April, our colleagues with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received a fisherman’s report of whales off the St. Augustine Pier, heading south. Conducting follow-up interviews, the FWC team concluded that the sighting might be mother-calf right whales and contacted us to assist with verifying it. We made calls and, together with FWC, fanned out between the Pier and Washington Oaks. No whales! On the next day, 18 April, the AirCam team flew a manta ray survey and kept eyes peeled. No whales! Later that day, a call came in to the MRC Hotline from Daytona Beach. This report turned out to be rafts of Sargassum weed.
Thanks to the many of you who have contributed, we have reached our Level One Goal ($10,000). A success indeed! To date, a total of 53 have donated, with Survey Team One having the highest number of checks arriving in our hands. For those of you who may have an unused envelope, and are willing and able, your donation checks (made out to ASWH, and mailed to 9741 Ocean Shore Blvd., St. Augustine, FL 32080-8618) will be gratefully accepted.
We will continue to send periodic updates during the off-season, and in the fall as we approach the 2018 season.
J.H. and J.H., MRWP