The New England Aquarium on Thursday released a series of aerial photos capturing what the organization has described as a “fall feeding frenzy” of marine mammals, including whales, in the Gulf of Maine.
According to the aquarium, the aerial survey team at their Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life has been flying over the Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Cape Cod all the way to the southern tip of Nova Scotia, monitoring what is happening in the waters.
The Gulf of Maine has “productive waters” that bring many species to the area, but that abundance could be in jeopardy due to climate change, according to the nonprofit.
“It’s one of the fastest-warming parts of the ocean, with climate change causing the average temperature in the Gulf to rise by three degrees Celsius over the last 15 years,” the aquarium said in a statement. “That might not sound like a lot, but ongoing warming can affect the distribution of food sources for animals such as whales, dolphins, and large fish, affecting the food chain and disrupting the ecosystem.”
The fall aerial surveys captured fin whales, swimming with their mouths wide open, right whales and their calves, humpbacks, many different dolphins, and “amazing looks at an endangered blue whale.”
“The amount of wildlife we’ve seen feeding during our fall surveys has really been quite astounding,” Orla O’Brien, associate scientist, said in a statement. “From fin whales lunge feeding on krill to right whales and basking sharks skim feeding side by side to groups of humpbacks, pods of dolphins, and a blue whale.”
According to the aquarium, one of the “most exciting moments” was when the team spotted right whale mom Pediddle and her 10-month-old calf, one of 11 right whale calves born last year, skim feeding. North Atlantic right whales are some of the most endangered whales on the planet.
“It was incredible to watch these right whales feeding at the surface, especially Pediddle’s calf learning to feed alongside its mother,” Katherine McKenna, an assistant scientist who captured the aerial survey photos, said in a statement.
The sighting of the mom and baby also underscored the urgency for mitigating the human threats to their population, namely entanglements and vessel strikes, the aquarium said.
“Right whale mothers and their calves are vital to the recovery of this critically endangered species, and it is important to ensure they are protected from threats throughout their range,” McKenna said.
O’Brien said that with so few right whales remaining, spotting them in the Gulf of Maine can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack.
“These sightings, combined with all the other types of whales we’ve seen feeding here, demonstrate that the Gulf of Maine continues to be an important habitat and one that needs protection,” she said.
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