Right Whale Diving and Foraging Behavior in the Western Gulf of Maine


Mark Baumgartner, WHOI Biology Dept.

Awarded:  2007

The North Atlantic right whale is at particular risk from ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear, and these human-caused sources of injury and mortality are hindering the recovery of this severely endangered population. There are considerable gaps in our understanding of how right whale behavior mediates these risk factors. We have recently conducted field research into right whale diving and foraging behavior to better understand how the whales utilize prey resources and where in the water column they spend most of their time. Our research has demonstrated that right whales in the western Gulf of Maine forage regularly near the sea floor, an area of particular conservation concern because of the presence of floating ground lines in trap fisheries. Our field work for this project will end in June 2007, and we will be using support from the Right Whale Initiative to analyze our unique dataset and to communicate our results to the scientific, management, conservation, and fisheries communities through publication of a peerreviewed journal article.