Tagging team in the starting-blocks!

Scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St. Andrews are spending their third summer in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan studying the underwater behaviour and ecology of whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This long-term collaboration between MICS and the Miller Lab at the University of St. Andrews aims to understand how the body condition of humpback whales changes over the course of summer feeding season using high-resolution digital tags. The tags record 9 different parameters about the whales diving and swimming behaviours, including acceleration, speed, orientation and depth, and give scientists a unique insight into the underwater behaviour of these large mammals.

The team of scientists is also aiming to understand how blue, fin, humpback and minke whales find their food. To do this they are using tags to record whale movements, and scientific fish finders to understand the distribution of their food.

Currently the team is waiting for the weather to improve and for the whales to return in large numbers. During shore days the team is busy building and testing different tag packages that will enable them to deploy and track whale movements overnight. The tags are attached to whales using suction cups and can be located using satellite and radio transmitters.

So far the team have been lucky enough to tag a fin whale for 5 minutes and a known humpback whale for 2 hours, but are looking to improve this record, as the weather gets better and the field season progresses.

We wish the "tagging team" a successful season (the start of their season was delayed by the late arrival the shipment containing all the equipment)!

H692, Humpback whale tagged 9th of July                                                             CAR.2013.MICS©