B161 Opera sighted in the Gulf of Maine
Fred Wenzel and Tim Cole of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole , MA, and both ex MICS team members, photographed a single blue whale off Jeffreys Ledge in the Gulf of Maine on November 17, 2004.
Fred and Tim certainly know the importance of getting any blue whale they sight photographed and in this instance it paid off immediately.
Upon opening the jpg files they sent the whale was easy to identify due to the scars on its caudal peduncle.
While aboard the Sedna IV on August 25 this past summer I photographed
B161 just North of Bonaventure Island off the eastern end of the Gaspe Peninsula. Opera is a well-known male, which was first sighted in 1981 off Mingan and has been seen very regularly since. This summer B161 was carrying fresh scars most likely caused by a brief entanglement in fishing gear. These scars were superficial and will heal and probably disappear over time. The pictures taken by Fred and Tim revealed that though the scars were still very present in November, they had healed a bit. It is very useful to have sightings inside and outside the St.
Lawrence in the same year, because we can better determine blue whale dispersal along the eastern seaboard. This sighing further confirms that the blues sighted in the Gulf of Maine, off Nova Scotia and the St, Lawrence all clearly belong to the same population.
We did not see B161 further inside the St. Lawrence than off the tip of Gaspe in 2004, but in 2003 he was seen off Matane and has been seen in recent years both off Mingan and in the Estuary.
Why Opera? I can't at this time remember but I am certain this name came to be in a moment of collective creativity and perhaps before we knew its sex.
One other blue whale was reported from the Gulf of Maine in August 2004, was unknown. We now have 16 different blue whales reported from the GOM of which 5 have also been sighted in the St. Lawrence-25%. Matches between the two areas include:
B073, B125, B161, B203, and B298