Tardiness of right whales
no cause for alarm: expert
BY CHUCK BROWN
GRAND MANAN - Right
whales the endangered giants of the North Atlantic, are making a slow return to
the Bay of Fundy this summer.
They're trickling into New
Brunswick waters behind schedule, giving scientists yet another mystery to
solve in their unpredictable migrations.
are not here in any great numbers yet," said Andrew Westgate, of the Grand
Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station.
"It's been, I
don't want to say a late year because we don't really know what late and early
is, but it's not like it has been the past couple years when the whales have
been here early in July."
Mr. Westgate said the delay
isn't causing concern.
"As of last week there was only a
single right whale in the bay that anyone knew about. I think a few more have
moved in over the past week," he said. "Things are just a little bit slower to
For such a large, slow-moving animal, right
whales are difficult to track. While the whales are known to winter off Florida
then move north during the summer in search of food, there are some that don't
follow that pattern.
Where they go is unknown.
Attempts to track the animals with monitoring tags have
failed because the whales lose the tags as they bump each other.
The whales weigh about 50 tonnes, making it difficult to
create a tag that can withstand the abuse.
said the recent pattern of arriving in the Bay of Fundy in July is also a
change from decades past.
"Typically in July the whales
have been showing up at least the past couple years. Back in the '80s they
typically weren't here in any great numbers until August. This seems to me to
be more of an '80s kind of a year. "
Right whales back in bay
BY NINA CHIARELLI
Whale watchers will
be able to glimpse the rarest large animal on Earth with the annual migration
of North Atlantic right whales into the Bay of Fundy now underway, nearly a
"The right whales have returned to the bay,"
said Aubrey Reeves, a crew member on the schooner D'Sonoqua, which escorts
whale watchers into the Bay of Fundy daily, as part of Grand Manan Sealand
"We've seen a couple of whales, including a
couple of different mother and calf pairs," she said, adding members of the
Sealand Adventures tour operation spotted the first whales last Wednesday.
"The past two days we've been seeing quite a few," she
said. "About eight or nine a day.
Whale watching is rated
as the third most popular activity by visitors to New Brunswick, says Alain
Bryar, a spokesman for province's Tourism and Parks department. Eating fresh
seafood, and visiting the province's beaches rank first and second,
As a result, tour operators, and whale
watchers were getting a little anxious, because the whales usually make it up
to the Bay of Fundy from southern waters near Georgia and Florida in early
"They're here now," said Karen McDonald, who
co-owns Whales-n-Sails on Grand Manan Island with her husband Allan.
"It's good for the island because it brings the tourists
in" she said. "And (now) the island has been more normal for this time of
Lisa Eldridge, owner of Quoddy Link Marine, a
whale watching operation in St. Andrews, said the season has been very
"It's been good, but it's been the kind of
year where every day is a little unpredictable with the whales," she said.
"At the beginning of the season we were seeing more
finback (whales) than we're seeing now. But we're predicting the season will be
Although right whales are a rarity near St.
Andrews, Ms. Eldridge said it is not uncommon for many different whales to have
what appear to be off years, in terms of migration patterns.
"It's been very hard the last few years to predict how
the season is going to be," she said.
"The weather is
changing and the warming (water) temperatures are affecting the patterns of the
Ms. Eldridge also said temperature shifts can
affect the lifecycle of what the whales eat, creating differences from year to
Adult right whales are usually 13 to 16 metres
long, slow moving, and tend to stay close to the shore. Although the whales
have been protected for about 60 years, and are considered endangered, it is
estimated there are fewer than 350 remaining in the world. Collisions with
ships account for nearly 50 per cent of their known deaths.