Researchers in the Bering Sea came upon the faint call of the right whale, and followed it for four hours until they tracked a couple of them down.
A research vessel in the Bering Sea spotted two critically endangered North Pacific right whales recently, an animal so rare that researchers can go years without seeing them. The vessel photographed two of the whales over the weekend and even got a biopsy sample from one of them, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced.
Researchers on the Yushin Maru 2 spotted the whales as they participated in the Pacific Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research program, and used an acoustic recorder to find the faint calls of a right whale east of Bristol Bay in Alaska. The calls were between 10 and 32 miles away, prompting the ship to head toward them.
Four and a half hours later, they were able to spot the elusive creatures.
“With as few as 400 remaining, NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to the conservation and recovery of North Atlantic right whales. Right whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Their two greatest threats are entanglement in fixed fishing gear and vessel strikes,” NOAA says on its website. “Each fall, right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida. These southern waters are the only known calving area for the species; an area where they give birth and nurse their young.”