Thursday, December 07, 2006

Right whale nursery?

The area where Right whales calve, off the coast of the southeastern United States, is the home to three major shipping ports. This means that the whales' nursery is criss-crossed by at least 245 ocean-going vessels a month.

Whale reseachers in this region regularly perform aerial surveys between now and the end of March, looking for mothers and their calves, in order to recommend appropriate shipping routes and specific conservation efforts.

Researchers in Canada and the U.S. are constantly monitoring whale population size, trends, migration patterns, distribution, demographics, reproduction, mortality rates, inheritance of skin markings, degrees of chemical exposure, association patterns, mating strategies and incidence of past human interactions.

Because there are so few right whales, researchers know individuals at a fairly intimate level and can readily recognize individual whales by their markings.

Incidentally, Right whales have a natural life span similar to that of humans - one whale is known to have been around for more than 70 years.

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