#18: A Special Day in the Bay

Our days at sea would not be possible without the support of our funding partners. One of the greatest joys of our field season is to share a day at sea with right whales and our donors, who rarely get the opportunity to enjoy time with these whales! On September 14th, we had the distinct pleasure of taking two of our partners from Irving Oil- John Logan (Project Manager) and Carolyn Van der Veen (Public Affairs)- into the Bay of Fundy.

John Logan on the Nereid.

John has been involved in our research, conservation and education efforts for right whales since the partnership began in 1998.
In fact, it was John who first contacted us that year to investigate how we could work together on the issue of reducing the risks of vessel strikes to right whales. The unlikely partnership of biologists and an oil company working together has resulted in a conservation success story for right whales in the Bay of Fundy.

Carolyn Van der Veen on the Nereid.

Carolyn has been furthering the understanding of right whales through several right whale education campaigns online. Check out the "Fluent in Whale" game on Facebook, an inspiring video about our partnership on YouTube, and information about the program on their corporate website. Irving also promotes our Right Whale Research Program at their retail outlets in the Maritimes and New England.

September 14th was a less-than-bluebird day, but our guests were game for adventure on the choppy seas that the wind was stirring up. And wouldn't you know it that we observed the highest number of right whales in one day for the season? We had eight to ten individuals, many of them new for the summer! Some old-timers appeared, like Manta (Catalog #1507), Dollar (#1332), and Meridian (#1403). We also sighted three   younger whales; Catalog #3832, #3890, and #3808 (our first whale of this season).

Meridian, named for the wrapping head scar that remains from a severe entanglement event. Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

While being jostled around on the R/V Nereid, Amy Knowlton was able to snag two very valuable photos of Catalog #1331. We don't know when #1331 was born, but we added him to the Catalog in 1981. He was last observed during an aerial survey on November 26, 2011, when his right flank revealed new propeller cuts from an encounter with a small boat. Although we only caught a brief glimpse of #1331, his scars seem to be healing well! This sighting was an appropriate reminder that even though we've made enormous strides in reducing the risk of ship strikes from large vessels, educating mariners who sail on small boats about right whales and how they are vulnerable to encounters is still a relevant and important task.

The first vessel-based photographs of Catalog #1331's propeller scars show healing. Photo: Amy Knowlton

Before we began our transit back to land, we came across three humpback whales who put on a show for our guests! Have you ever seen two humpbacks breach simultaneously? Then you can imagine the amazement of everyone on the Nereid when all THREE humpbacks breached within less than one second of each other! Difficult to capture, below is a collage of this incredible event:

Three humpbacks breaching together! Photo: Amy Knowlton

We had such a rewarding day on the water that there really couldn't have been a better way to say thank you to our funding partners for their willingness to collaborate with us, and for the work they allow us to do. There will be a story on the success of right whale conservation and steps for future efforts in the Saint John Telegraph Journal on September 28th by journalist Jenifer Pritchett and photographer Cindy Wilson, who also braved the elements with us to learn more about right whales in the Bay of Fundy. Keep your eyes peeled for the article if it's distributed in your area!

- Marianna and Moira

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