Blue whale tagging 2018: off to Bermuda?

 

We may be off the water, but thanks to our tagging project, we can still follow some blue whales’ movements from land in the warmth of our offices!

Sadly, some of the tags deployed during the 2018 season have already ceased transmission. We are unsure why they do, but the most likely reason is that they have simply fallen off the whales. These tags, used by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which MICS collaborates with on this project, are less invasive and only penetrate into the blubber layer, and connective tissue, not the muscle. This means they have a higher chance of detaching, but ensure that disturbance is minimized. 

 

Bm9 tag whole body view b

Bm9 tag close up c

Tag placed on another blue whale that has sadly stopped transmitting. 

 

However, one of them is still going strong and transmitting on a regular basis! Richard Sears and his team tagged B531 in the St. Lawrence estuary on September 20th, 2018, between Baie Comeau and Matane. While the sex of this relatively new individual is not yet known, Richard Sears reckons that it may be a male based on its behaviour as a flanker in the group it was seen. 

 

B531

B531, just before the tag was deployed.

 

The map provided by Dr. Véronique Lesage from DFO shows the trajectory that B531 has followed after leaving the Gulf. Similarly to the blue whales B244 “Symphonie” and B197 “Pléiades”, whose tags had also transmitted for a long time, B531 swam straight out off the Scotian continental shelf towards the New England Sea Mounts, and now appears to be headed towards Bermuda. 

 

Blue whale tagging map 2018

B531 track (Map provided by DFO)

 

We hope that this tag will last at least as long as Symphonie’s, which had transmitted for a record 6 months, thus giving us a first insight into blue whales’ movements in the Northwest Atlantic during the winter. 

B244 tagging map

B244 "Symphonie"'s track in 2014-2015

 

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