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Russia captive orca NARNIA_2017_2 CREDIT Oxana Fedorova

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New technology to aid right whale research

Scientists from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and other researchers are using the latest advancements in technology this summer to track one of the world’s most endangered whales – the North Atlantic right whale.

Hunted close to extinction, 80 years of protection have only seen the whale population slowly recover to around 500. Collisions with shipping and entanglement in fishing gear are major threats to the whales today, making it vital that we know which areas of the ocean are key habitats for them.

North Atlantic right whales breed and give birth in warmer waters off Florida and Georgia before migrating north during the summer to Cape Cod bay and the Bay of Fundy. The whales are also known to spend time in the Roseway Basin, an area of sea off the south coast of Nova Scotia but little is known about where else they visit.

To help keep track of the whales movements, the University is deploying a number of autonomous underwater gliders accompanied by air support and acoustic devices that will allow them to listen in and watch for the whales as they move around. The two-month survey will hopefully provide vital information on what the whales get up to during the summer.

Underwater research glider

The gliders are equipped with acoustic technology that can identify what whales they are hearing and then send a message to the researchers, providing almost instant information.

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.