Efforts to Protect Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale are Boosted by Innovative IFAW Acoustic Buoy Project

Apr 23, 2001, 01:00 ET from The International Fund for Animal Welfare

    CAPE COD, Mass., April 23 /PRNewswire Interactive New Release/ -- The
 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) today continued
 with its highly successful, $250,000 right whale acoustic buoy project, when
 it deployed six specially designed acoustic buoys into the Great South
 Channel, the main shipping and right whale migration route along the US
 Northeast seaboard.
     This project is being carried out in collaboration with Cornell
 University's well-known Bioacoustics Research Program located at the Cornell
 Laboratory of Ornithology, which designed and built the buoys. Vocalizations
 collected from the buoys will be used to compile specific information about
 right whale movements, which may be used to re-route ships around aggregations
 for right whales. Ultimately, this may provide the key to the survival of this
 highly endangered great whale species, of which fewer than 350 are known to
 exist.
     The buoys are built of clear glass spheres containing sophisticated
 passive acoustic monitoring devices, computer processing and data storage
 equipment, and battery power. They are anchored close to the sea floor in a
 line, each unit approximately nine miles apart, extending eastward from the
 shipping lane off Cape Cod, Massachusetts across the Great South Channel.  The
 buoys effectively form an acoustic 'net' to record the sounds made by whales
 and ships passing in and out of the Great South Channel critical habitat area.
 The buoys will be in place until the end of May. Last week, five similar buoys
 were retrieved from Cape Cod Bay, where they had been collecting similar
 acoustic information for that area over a 40-day period.
     North Atlantic right whales, one of world's rarest whale species, are
 highly susceptible to vessel strikes, as shipping cuts through the whales'
 critical habitat. Sixteen right whales are known to have died from ship
 strikes over the past three decades, while scientists believe more may have
 been killed but their bodies never found. Ship strikes and entanglement in
 fishing gear are the primary human-induced threats to right whales and may be
 largely responsible for the failure of right whales to recover since the
 population were decimated by commercial whaling.
     This winter, the right whale breeding season produced what researchers are
 calling a bumper crop of right whale births. Thirty births have been
 documented, although three calves have already died.
     "Optimism for the survival of the right whale has grown over the last
 months due to the high number of births," said Jared Blumenfeld, Director of
 IFAW's Habitat for Animals Program. "However, despite the good news, the
 population will only have a chance to recover if deaths from ship collisions
 and fishing entanglements can be reduced. By using this innovative acoustic
 technology, IFAW hopes to protect these new calves by providing the shipping
 industry the information it needs to avoid right whales."
     "The additional recordings and behavioral observations generated by this
 acoustic buoy project will enable us to continue examining how often, and in
 what circumstances right whales make sounds," said IFAW Right Whale Team
 Leader, Anna Moscrop. "We aim to encourage the development of systems which
 will use acoustic information to better detect and communicate to vessels the
 presence of whales in shipping lanes, providing additional information which
 could be the key to ship strike prevention."
 
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SOURCE The International Fund for Animal Welfare
    CAPE COD, Mass., April 23 /PRNewswire Interactive New Release/ -- The
 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) today continued
 with its highly successful, $250,000 right whale acoustic buoy project, when
 it deployed six specially designed acoustic buoys into the Great South
 Channel, the main shipping and right whale migration route along the US
 Northeast seaboard.
     This project is being carried out in collaboration with Cornell
 University's well-known Bioacoustics Research Program located at the Cornell
 Laboratory of Ornithology, which designed and built the buoys. Vocalizations
 collected from the buoys will be used to compile specific information about
 right whale movements, which may be used to re-route ships around aggregations
 for right whales. Ultimately, this may provide the key to the survival of this
 highly endangered great whale species, of which fewer than 350 are known to
 exist.
     The buoys are built of clear glass spheres containing sophisticated
 passive acoustic monitoring devices, computer processing and data storage
 equipment, and battery power. They are anchored close to the sea floor in a
 line, each unit approximately nine miles apart, extending eastward from the
 shipping lane off Cape Cod, Massachusetts across the Great South Channel.  The
 buoys effectively form an acoustic 'net' to record the sounds made by whales
 and ships passing in and out of the Great South Channel critical habitat area.
 The buoys will be in place until the end of May. Last week, five similar buoys
 were retrieved from Cape Cod Bay, where they had been collecting similar
 acoustic information for that area over a 40-day period.
     North Atlantic right whales, one of world's rarest whale species, are
 highly susceptible to vessel strikes, as shipping cuts through the whales'
 critical habitat. Sixteen right whales are known to have died from ship
 strikes over the past three decades, while scientists believe more may have
 been killed but their bodies never found. Ship strikes and entanglement in
 fishing gear are the primary human-induced threats to right whales and may be
 largely responsible for the failure of right whales to recover since the
 population were decimated by commercial whaling.
     This winter, the right whale breeding season produced what researchers are
 calling a bumper crop of right whale births. Thirty births have been
 documented, although three calves have already died.
     "Optimism for the survival of the right whale has grown over the last
 months due to the high number of births," said Jared Blumenfeld, Director of
 IFAW's Habitat for Animals Program. "However, despite the good news, the
 population will only have a chance to recover if deaths from ship collisions
 and fishing entanglements can be reduced. By using this innovative acoustic
 technology, IFAW hopes to protect these new calves by providing the shipping
 industry the information it needs to avoid right whales."
     "The additional recordings and behavioral observations generated by this
 acoustic buoy project will enable us to continue examining how often, and in
 what circumstances right whales make sounds," said IFAW Right Whale Team
 Leader, Anna Moscrop. "We aim to encourage the development of systems which
 will use acoustic information to better detect and communicate to vessels the
 presence of whales in shipping lanes, providing additional information which
 could be the key to ship strike prevention."
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X64375242
 
 SOURCE  The International Fund for Animal Welfare