#15: Jordan Basin- a New Wintering Ground?

For years we have been curious about where most of the right whales are in the winter and where they mate. We see mating type behavior year round, but they mostly give birth from December to March (with a few exceptions!). Because their gestation is 12-13 months, this means they should be getting pregnant November through March. This is a tough time of the year to be out surveying for right whales!

We know mothers and calves and juveniles are off the southern coast of the United States and some others are seen in Cape Cod Bay, but where most of the adults are during the peak of the conception time has been unknown. In the last few years, NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center has been doing broad aerial surveys over the Gulf of Maine and have found a consistent aggregation of right whales near Jordan Basin (pdf), which is about 70 miles south of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Jordan Basin

Once we identify all these animals, we will be able to look at their reproductive histories and see whether there is any evidence that they are mating in this area as well.

Ironically, for years researchers have hunted for a missing wintering ground using invasive tags and analyzing data from satellites. Many thought a wintering ground would be further offshore. Although 70 miles at sea is a good distance, but in another view, it is in the middle of our back yard!



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