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Design and Development of a Net Gun Deployed ?Cutter Fish? Satellite Telemetry Tag for Long Term Tracking of Whales at Sea

Becky Woodward, Postdoctoral Scholar, WHOI Biology Dept
Michael Moore, WHOI Biology Dept

A self-propelled, rope-ascending satellite telemetry tag will be developed and used in conjunction with the Woodward net gun deployment system to provide a novel, non-invasive means of tracking the long term movements of right whales. The deck mounted net gun will be used to remotely deploy a padded harness about the tail stock of a fluking whale. Once the tail has been lassoed, a “cutter fish” satellite tag will be released into the water. This tag will ascend the bitter end of the lasso line and dock at a specified distance from the tail harness on the whale, trimming the trailing line behind it. The tag, lasso, and docking system will be designed to allow the tow length for the tag to be adjusted based on field trials to optimize the satellite telemetry performance of the towed tag while minimizing the entanglement risk to the whale. An electronic timed release system will be developed and combined with both a corrosive galvanic release and a break-away link to form a redundant release system for removing the harness and tag system. Component testing will include on-the-water trials of the net gun deployment system, self-ascension and docking of the tag as well as the redundant release system using a full-scale model replica of a right whale tail.

Last updated: October 24, 2008