Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another Wandering Whale from the Bay of Fundy?

After a positive ID for a north Atlantic right whale at the Azores, it's not much of a stretch to wonder whether or not the wandering humpback whale sighted in the water off the Netherlands might also be a local visiting European shores (See text below). It will be interesting to see if anyone can identify this whale from Allied Whale's database.

The question that this raises could be a serious one. Are more and more whales wandering further and further in search of food or is this just the whale equivalent of a "walk about"? If it is the former, then what will this mean for reproduction, pod integrity, and social needs?

Here in the Quoddy Region, there has been great concern about the decline in plankton, particularly the copepod Calanus finmarchicus and the krill Meganyctiphanes norvegicus; vital food for local whales including endangered right whales. Local observers like Joyce Morell have wondering aloud what has happened to the krill which once were cast up on the shores of Campobello island in piles "a foot deep". You can read her latest musings and, not incidentally, see her great photos at ilovequoddywild.blogspot.com

Recent studies point to near-shore pollution, both air and water-borne as the likely cause of the reduction of benthic populations in the Quoddy Region of the Bay of Fundy and this may ultimately reduce plankton levels. While serious declines were occurring during the late 1950's and pollution was literally killing the St. Croix Estuary and western Passamaquoddy Bay, officials in both Canada and the United States were turning a blind eye to the polluters and the most obvious of impacts.

And, today, we continue merrily along as if we are immune to the decline of paradise.

That's how I see it this morning!

Complete post at MARMAM:

This winter, another humpback whale, seemingly successfully, exploits Dutch coastal waters (southern North Sea). This represents at the least the 9th individual since 2003 in this area after an absence of >300 years in strandings and/or sightings data.

An earlier one, May 2007, was photoidentified and relocated in Ireland in Sep 2007, only to return to the Netherlands again shortly in Nov that same year. This is a new animal, and because the occurrence of these whales in the S Bight is a both novelty for us and a risky affair for the whales (4 earlier whales died here, some in fishing gear, one struck by a ship off Belgium), we are very keen to learn more about their movements.

We failed thus far to get a decent picture of the flukes, but will keep trying. However, some excellent shots of the dorsal at short range may be enough to link this sighting to other unusual recent records within the North Sea or Baltic, or indeed even the west of Britain.
The question is: Does anyone recognise, or seems to recognise this animal?? Check out: http://salkodewolf.overweg.com/frame.php?itemId=140319 Any suggestions are very welcome with Kees Camphuysen, kees.camphuysen@wxs.nl Even more detailed pictures are available if needed. PDFs of a paper (see below) on the previous well-documented case are available on request

Camphuysen C.J. 2007. Foraging humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Marsdiep area (Wadden Sea), May 2007 and a review of sightings and strandings in the southern North Sea, 2003-2007. Lutra 50(1): 31-42. Kees Camphuysen


  1. Carol A. Owens2:57 PM

    Dear Art---
    I am surprised by this sighting, am somewhat aghast. Whatever the cause, man or nature, we need to clean up our act..
    We plan a trip to the Pacific Northwest Sept-Oct '09; and chatting with Alexandra Morton, and her web of whale researchers, have discovered that they are down to 83 orcas now, in the Vancouver Island area.....She has won a major battle with the salmon farmers, particularly the large ones, but she has dedicated her life to this. We can't keep screwing around with mother nature and expect no consequences.
    I am still interested , very much, in helping with whale research in the New Brunswick area, and will be in touch with you, and the others you suggested, now that I am over the holidays!

    Hope you have a joyful day--
    Carol Owens

  2. Way to go,

    Let's make an effort to document plankton in this area.