Right Whales - Bay of Fundy
If you plan to go whale watching
(whether with a commercial operator or on a private vessel) please refer
to the general whale watch information and specifically:
We are fortunate to have a large
number of right whales in the Bay of Fundy most
summers but these whales are highly endangered.
Many mothers and calves use
the Bay as a nursery area.
Zones for right whales exists, one off southwestern Nova Scotia and
one in the Bay of Fundy.
It is always best to be cautious
and conservative when watching right whales to avoid any negative impact
to the whales, particularly when mothers and calves are in the area.
(Note: Along the eastern seaboard of the United States you must be 500
yards or further from right whales at all times. If a right whale
surfaces near your boat you must slowly move away from it as soon as possible.)
It is also important to report
sightings of right whales in the Bay of Fundy to Fundy Traffic, VHF Channel
14 or the Canadian Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16, including any entangled
whales. They monitor the location of right whales and warn
shipping traffic into and out of the port of Saint John about the presence
of right whales, particularly in the shipping lanes. The information
to report is the name of your vessel, location in latitude and longitude
and the number of right whales present. If the whales are over a
larger area you can include an estimate of the area covered. Important
information can also be retrieved from any dead right whales you may encounter.
AND OCEANS WHALE WATCH GUIDELINES
OF ETHICS FOR BAY OF FUNDY WHALE WATCHERS
should also be familiar with the following information about mothers and
ABOUT. WATCH OUT!
Bay of Fundy is a nursery area for North Atlantic right whales. Mothers
and their calves are particularly vulnerable because the calf must rest
frequently at the surface.
How can you tell a mother/calf
Use extreme caution when moving
through an area that may have right whales. Assume that calves are
in the area. The vessel should never be in autopilot without a posted watch.
Right whales are not aware of your vessel and will not get out of your
Post a bow watch, reduce speed,
change course to avoid areas of right whales.
The Department of Fisheries
and Oceans recommends a keeping a distance of at least 100m from mothers/calves
with no more than one boat present with a mother and calf.
Slow to 18.5 km/hr (10 knots)
or less when a right whale is spotted 3 km (2 miles) away and to 13 km/hr
(7 knots) or less when within 1.5 km (1 mile). Travel through areas
known to have right whales should be done at slow speed when visibility
is reduced (i.e. fog or during the night).
Maintain these speeds at the
same ranges when departing the right whale area with a dedicated bow watch
for at least five miles from the last right whale sighting.
If you stop to watch right whales
extreme caution is still required. Remember you are the visitor - whale
watching is a privilege. Watching marine wildlife responsibly will yield
Calves are much smaller
than their mothers but by the time they are in the Bay of Fundy the calves
may be 6-9 m (20-30 feet) long. When with their mothers, calves are
less than a body length away.
How can you tell a calf
from an adult?
When seen with adults the
size difference is obvious however when seen alone they can be mistaken
for older right whales. Calves' heads are concave rather than convex.
Baleen of calves is short so the head tends to be flat or slightly indented
with both the bonnet callosity (at the end of the rostrum or tip of the
head) and the coaming callosity (before the blowholes) appearing prominently
or "pug" shaped. Their flukes are smaller than adult flukes and calves
may or may not completely lift their flukes as they dive. Orange-coloured
cyamids or "whale lice" on their heads are more common. They are
often active at the surface but their activities may differ from similar
activities performed by adults.
Common activities and
how calves perform them:
1. flipper slapping/waving
slapping the water surface or raising flipper into air. Calves may hit
their sides with their flippers as often as the water. Female calves will
sometimes roll upside down with flippers up and drift along.
2. surfacing - breaking
the surface to breath. Calves may come up normally or backwards, flukes
3. fluking or diving
- lifting the tail when diving deeply. The calves' flukes, if lifted,
may be cockeyed or many times may not be lifted.
4. logging - lying
at the surface, motionless except to breath. Calves often nap for long
periods when their mothers are off feeding. This is more prevalent on calm
days. They are difficult to see with little of the head and back
5. breaching - propelling
most or all of the body above the water surface. Calves often breach -
some more than others. It is recommended to have the motor in neutral
and if necessary, move away from the calf since calves may breach toward
6. tail lobbing -
slapping the surface of the water with the tail flukes. This vigourous
activity is another favourite of calves. As with breaching, calves who
are tail lobbing, give a wide berth.
7. avoiding - taking
actions to move away from vessels. Calves may also submerge when a boat
approaches, and remain just under the surface, re-emerging when the boat
begins to move. This may happen over and over. It is difficult to
safely leave the area especially when more than one calf is in the area.
8. curiosity - approaching
objects/vessels closely. Calves may investigate objects such as seaweed.
Calves may also approach boats and show curiosity including swimming under
vessels whether the vessels are moving slowly or just drifting. This
is not a behaviour to encourage because of the propensity of right whales
to be struck by vessels.
9. gregariousness -
coming together in groups, often accompanied by social activity. Calves
may associate with other calves at times in a "nursery school". When
near nursery schools it must be remembered that females may approach from
several directions for their calves. The calves may submerge when
vessels approach or be oblivious to vessel activity when engaged in play.
Why are mothers and calves
The mother feeds at depth
while the calf remains at the surface, sometimes for several hours.
How do right whale mothers
and calves communicate when separated?
Underwater and above water
vocalizations, flipper slapping, breaching or tail lobbing, which also
create underwater noise.
What happens when they
The calf will swim quickly
toward the mother at the surface. When together the two will touch
each other with their flippers and flukes, and engage in nursing sessions.
The mother tolerates boisterous behaviours by the calf including breaching
onto her back and covering her blowholes with its flukes.
How can you tell calves
Calves are nursing when
the mother is motionless at the surface and the calf disappears beneath
Where should you be?
It is always prudent not
to position a boat between a mother and a calf. This means that the
mother's activities must be monitored as well as the calf's. Mothers
are not usually aggressive but each female is different.
Where will you find mothers
With other right whales
but mothers and calves may travel more widely and show up in areas not
considered to be "normal". The reasons may include avoiding
predators or male right whales, familiarizing their calves with the area,
or looking for food.
How do you know a whale
is avoiding you or your behaviour is stressful to the whales?
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rapid changes in course and
prolonged dives, course changes,
constantly turning from the
changing behaviour and beginning
to travel away from your vessel
tail lashes, trumpeting (louder