Friday, August 7, 2009

Assignment #5: Whale Watch

Hi Everyone! Ok so I think I’ve said this in each blog entry, but today was ‘definitely’ the best of the many trips we have gone on thus far. Let’s see if tomorrow’s fisheries management discussion and activity will be able to top it. Today we took a one hour ferry ride out to Stellwagen Bank at the mouth of the Massachusetts Bay for a whale watch. Stellwagen Bank is essentially a 6 mile wide sand plateau referred to as a marine sanctuary. The sanctuary is known to be home to the following marine mammals: baleen whales, toothed whales, pinnipeds, fish, sea turtles and seabirds. A few key observations of today’s environment out at Stellwagen Bank are as follows: Date: 8/6/09, Time: between 1pm and 4pm, Air Temperature: approximately 70 degrees, Location: outer portion of Massachusetts Bay at Stellwagen Bank.

During the whale watch we were lucky enough to see multiple Humpback whales which are members of the Baleen species. Humpbacks are known for their unique body shape and for their extremely long pectoral fins. They weigh approximately 30 tons and can live up to around 200 years. During the watch we were lucky enough to see the whales perform a number of movements. The most frequent of the movements was the ‘fluke’ which is when they curve their bodies into the water and bring their flukes (fins) above the water. My favorite of the actions was ‘breaching’ which is known to be rare but lucky for us, it was not rare today. Breaching is when they completely jump up out of the water and land back with a big crash. This movement requires an incredible amount of energy as the whale is lifting all 30 tons up and out of the water. The exact reason they do this is unknown but some theories state they are looking to communicate with other whales in this fashion or that they’re possibly trying to shake barnacles of off their bodies. We also witnessed the whales ‘tale slapping’ which is when the lift their tail out of the water and slap it back down on the surface making quite a loud whacking sound. There are also a few whales which we were told by the employees are common to the area which we didn’t see. A few examples of these are the Fin and Minke Whales. The Fin whale is significantly larger than the Humpback weighing anywhere up to 50 tons and the Minke whale is the smallest of the group weighing up to 8 tons.

Here's a nice example of a Breach.

As to the question of whether we feel people should eat whales if there were enough of them, I don’t see why not. If in fact there were an abundance of whales in existence and the majority of them were not in jeopardy of becoming extinct then eating a whale would be no different than eating a striped bass. Who knows… they may be tasty!

- Nick Pinheiro

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