#21: Contingency Plans

A typical survey for our team (pink section of map) is to start at 30 50.0N (southeast Georgia) and fly east from the shoreline to 080 47.0W, then fly 3 nautical miles (nm) south and turn west back to the shore. We fly this transect pattern (red horizontal lines on map) until we reach 030 17.0N (Jacksonville, FL). Each time we fly this survey pattern, we fly a distance of 406 nm and cover over 1000 sq.nm. However, when Wildlife Trust-Georgia (WT/GA) and/or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Florida FWC) aerial teams cannot fly their survey areas, for mechanical reasons, then the survey effort is modified to either a two-plane or a one-plane contingency plan to ensure that as much of the critical habitat area is surveyed as possible.

On Thursday (01/22) and Friday (01/23), there was a large, multi-agency disentanglement effort to free Bridle (Eg#3311/2003 Calf of Eg#1711), of entangling fishing line. Aerial support was provided by Florida FWC to provide vital information to the boat crews about the behavior of the whale and location of the line (as mentioned in past disentanglement blogs) and therefore, were unable to fly the southern section of the right whale critical habitat area. Coincidentally, the WT/GA survey team was also unable to fly the northern section of the critical habitat area from Wednesday through Friday because their plane required its 100 hour scheduled maintenance. Fortunately, we are prepared for situations when one or two teams are unable to fly their surveys.

Click on the lines to identify different contingency plans.

On Wednesday (01/21), Kara and I flew the two-plane contingency plan starting at 31 14.0N (northern most transect line in SE critical habitat area) south to 30 41.0N. This area represents the southern section of WT/GA survey area and our northern section. Florida FWC covered our southern survey area and a portion of their northern section. In order to cover this additional area in one day, we reduce the survey effort to the east (081 00.0W) which allows us to focus areas more heavily trafficked by both whales and ships.

On Thursday and Friday, we flew the one-plane contingency plan, starting at 31 14.0N and flew south to 30 11.0N. The one-plane contingency plan stretches our survey area 24 nm north and 6 nm south. Because we're covering more of the right whale habitat area, the past two days have been very busy. Thursday, Jess and I sighted 24 whales; and Friday, Jess and Kara sighted 19 whales (12 of those were mom/calf pairs!). We hope to give you an updated report to entangled whale Bridle (Eg#3311), soon but for now check out this press release for the most current news.
Photo Caption:
1) Map of EWS Suvey Area. The white solid line shows the right whale critical habitat. The black dotted line shows the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) Area. The contingency plan fights cover two or all three of the color shaded areas depending on the plan.


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