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American right whale researchers mourned
ENVIRONMENT: Work will continue despite untimely deaths, Canadian scientist says

BY CHUCK BROWN
Telegraph-Journal
January 29/03

    A plane carrying North Atlantic right whale researchers has crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and the search for three bodies has been called off.
   The body of marine researcher Jacqueline Ciano, 47, of Massachusetts, has been recovered from the waters off Florida but the plane, its pilot and two other researchers were not found.
   Ms. Ciano and the others were flying over the Atlantic looking for right whale calves. Last radio contact was made Sunday afternoon and Ms. Ciano's body was found at 11:30 p. m. Sunday, according to the Florida Times-Union newspaper.
   Ms. Ciano and other researchers had counted 14 right whale calves so far this year - encouraging news for the species, which numbers about 300. The scientists were searching the waters for more calves when the plane went down.
   Jerry Conway, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine mammal co-ordinator, said the marine science community is saddened by news of the crash but vows their work will continue.
   "It won't stop the research. It won't stop people doing the surveys," Mr. Conway said.
   He believes Ms. Ciano and the others would have wanted their work to continue.
   "It's a very important part of the overall project, especially when you're trying to identify the calves from the air, population growth and problems with the population," Mr. Conway said.
   While the research work will continue, Mr. Conway said the crash will be remembered and will weigh on the minds of scientists who take to the air.
   "This sort of work is being done by everybody, these aerial surveys, and it makes you realize you're vul nerable," he said.
  "It's a question that we all have in, the back of our minds when you do: take these trips."
    News of the crash spread quickly , through the marine science community.
   "It's a very small community Everybody knows each other, or of each other, especially in the right whale community," Mr. Conway said.
   "This tragedy touches all of us. If we didn't know all of them we at least knew one of them aboard the plane."
   Ms. Ciano has spent several summers working in the Bay of Fundy out of the New England Aquarium's Lubec, Me., field station.
   "She's worked in the Bay of Fundy, and was very fond of Canada and the Canadian people," Mr. Conway said.
   During this research project, Ms Ciano was working for the New York-based Wildlife Trust, as were two others on the plane - Emily Argo, 25, of Wellfleet, Mass., and Michael Newcomer, 49, of Los Altos, Calif. Tom Hinds, of Florida, was their pilot.
   The research project involved identifying whale calves and also identifying migration patterns in efforts to save the whales from one of their greatest threats - ship strikes.
   According to the Times-Union, officials said they don't know why the plane went down.
   The Cessna 337-02A took off about 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
   About 4:15 p.m. Sunday, the callcame in that the group had spotted several whales.
   They broke off from their predetermined route to intercept the pod of whales to identify and photograph them.
   It was the last time anyone heard from the plane except for the ping of its emergency beacon rising from 15; metres below the ocean's surface almost 12 kilometres out to sea.
   U. S. National Transportation Safety Board investigator Alan Yurman said the four-seat Cessna was descending to about 150 metres for a: closer look at the whales.
   "They started the descent and (no one ever) heard from them again," Mr. Yurman said.
   By Monday afternoon, searchers had recovered a life raft, a backpack, a logbook and a carrying case. Ocean conditions at the location the beacon was found were hindering efforts to determine whether the wreckage was. there.
   The search was called off Tuesday.

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