IFAW research vessel to study endangered whales in U.S. waters

IFAW research vessel to study endangered whales in U.S. waters
Tuesday, 12 June, 2012

IFAW’s, (the International Fund for Animal Welfare, www.ifaw.org) research vessel, The Song of the Whale is contributing to one of the most comprehensive whale studies in the world - conducting critical research to help save whales from collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.

IFAW is joining the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary during its 20th anniversary to be part of a world-class international team studying humpback and fin whales off the coast of Massachusetts from June 17-28.

The research will help scientists better understand how these endangered whales use the water column including group foraging, mother and calf feeding and vocalizations.

“Whales face more threats today than ever, but we can save them,” said Patrick Ramage IFAW Whale Program Director. “Non-invasive research on living whales in their ocean habitat is critical to their protection. This world class study and scientific team are living proof that you don’t have to kill whales to study them.”

Song of the Whale is a 72-foot sailboat that was purpose-built to study whales without harming them using passive acoustics and non-invasive techniques. It is literally one of the quietest boats in the world and will be vital in tracking the whales ¬- especially at night. IFAW’s team will also use photogrammetry, which is a photographic technique to accurately measure the length of the whales using lasers, deploy hydrophones to monitor underwater whale acoustics, collect photo identification data and assist with whale tagging.

The tags that record motion and acoustics are called D-tags. They are designed to record sound in tandem with whale movements allowing for a visualization of the underwater activities and concurrent sounds that the animal makes or is exposed to. The team will attach the tags to individual whales with suction cups and a small VHF radio beacon will allow the team to track the whales and recover the device to collect the data.

Following the U.S. whale survey, IFAW’s team will search for the elusive North Atlantic right whale on the way to Iceland to find out more about where they go in the summer. While in Iceland, they will follow up on their previous research on the effects of whale watching and perform underwater acoustic monitoring for highly endangered blue whales, which are also the largest animals ever known to have lived.
Take a virtual tour of the Song of the Whale research vessel.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit  www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. News photos, audio and video available at www.ifawimages.com

Notes to Editors:

IFAW works to protect whales around the world by campaigning for an end to the cruel practice of commercial or so-called scientific whaling and through efforts to reduce the many other threats to whales. These include ship strikes, accidental entanglements in fishing gear and marine debris, climate change, pollution and man-made ocean noise. Whale watching provides a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling, generating around US$2.1bn annually for coastal communities.

Earlier this year IFAW launched a free Whale Alert app in conjunction with other partners to help save critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by reducing threats of collisions with large ships along the East Coast of North America. Learn more,
See how the Whale Alert app works, www.youtube.com

Download the app for iPhone and iPad, www.itunes.com/appstore

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Kerry Branon (IFAW HQ)
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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation