#1: Preparing for the Season

Each winter the New England Aquarium is part of a comprehensive aerial survey effort in the Southeastern United States (SEUS) called the Early Warning System (EWS). The EWS was developed in December 1993 to provide near real time locations of right whales to the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) so that seasonal dredging operations did not interfere with right whales.

The effort, communication, technology and awareness of the EWS have evolved greatly over the past sixteen years yet the primary goal remains the same. Today the EWS is an extremely large network which attempts to prevent ship collisions with right whales by providing real time detection to commercial mariners, U. S. Navy, ACOE, US Coast Guard, harbor pilots, port authorities and recreational boaters The EWS consists of three survey teams from Wildlife Trust, Florida Conservation Commission and New England Aquarium.

Together the three survey teams cover the entire right whale critical habitat from Georgia to
northeast Florida on every good weather day. In addition to the EWS, surveys are also conducted in South Carolina by Wildlife Trust. Each winter pregnant females migrate from the cold north Atlantic waters of the Bay of Fundy and New England to the temperate waters of the SEUS to give birth. In addition to mothers with their newborn calves the SEUS is highly utilized by numerous juveniles. The aerial survey teams can often document more than 100 individuals in a winter! The data collected from the EWS surveys helps researchers better understand the temporal occurrence, behavior and habitat use of this area in addition to contributing hundreds of sightings and thousands of images to the north Atlantic right whale catalog.

On Sunday, 11/30, all the aerial survey teams gathered in Fernandina Beach, FL to meet and discuss plans and protocols for the season. Then on December 1, our team joined Ken Person and Holly Friedman, two of our pilots, at our plane on the grounds of McGill Airport. Ken and Holly prepared us for any situation we might have to deal with while in flight, including aircraft fire safety, ditching procedures and general small plane etiquette. Ken and Holly spoke to us about what it is like being a pilot for such a specialized operation and how important overall communication is in the aircraft.

"If you see or smell something that you don't think is right, pipe up ... We are in different parts of the plane so you may see or smell something that we cannot." Ken said.

Now we are ready to fly, find right whales and have a safe, fun season! Tune in throughout the season to learn more about right whales and what it's like to fly aerial surveys for right whales!

Photo Caption:
1) Map of EWS survey.
2) Ken talking with Zach and Kara on plane safety. From left: Ken, Zach and Kara
3) Holly and Jess examining the luggage compartment. From left: Holly and Jess


1 comment:

  1. Kara! You truly are an amazing woman to be able to take photos of whales without your arms.

    We're all so proud of you!!