blimp to monitor whales
remotecontrolled blimp equipped with a video camera is flying over the Bay of
Fundy, taping the behaviour of whales as part of a study being done by the
Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Researchers from the
St. Andrews Biological Station have been on the water since Aug. 11 recording
whales' responses to nearby boats with the remote-controlled camera. They
control the blimp and camera from a nearby boat.
Biologists Lei Harris said the study is looking at the
stress that boats in the bay may cause whales.
we're trying to determine is if the presence of other vessels, and that
includes whale watchers, research vessels, fishing boats or other recreational
boaters, affects the behaviour of the whales," she said.
Ms. Harris said scientists want to see if a group of
socializing whales breaks up when vessels approach and if whales stop feeding
to get away from boats.
She said the footage collected by
researchers should show whether or not whales are stressed by observing whether
the animals surface for air more frequently when boats are close by. Ms. Harris
said she hopes if the study shows whales are being negatively affected by boats
in the bay, that there will be legislation enacted regulating how close boats
can get to the right whales.
Currently there are only
guidelines in place that recommend that boats stay 500 metres away from right
There have been significant efforts to protect
right whales in recent years, with shipping lanes in the bay moved and the
creation of quick-response disentanglement teams.
Harris said the presence of humans on the water affects the fragile right whale
population. The species is endangered and there is only about 350 left in the
Ms. Harris said it is important that people know
about the right whales' situation.
"We just want to
educate people about how to behave around the whales so that both humans and
whales can co-exist on the water. "
With files from