Navy-Funded Whale Tagging Study Begins

By MarEx 2014-08-26 10:56:00

A Navy-funded study to continue documenting blue and fin whale distribution, occurrence and movement patterns along the U.S. West Coast and throughout the Eastern Pacific began July 31.

Oregon State University researchers will attempt to locate and attach up to 24 long-term satellite tracking tags to blue and fin whales off Southern California.

The researchers will deploy from Santa Barbara or Long Beach, depending on reported sightings of blue and fin whales. The team's goal is attachment of 12 tags to blue whales and 12 tags to fin whales. These location-only tags can track and report whale movements for up to a year. The tag technology was developed by the Office of Naval Research and the Navy's Living Marine Resources Program.

A recent publication from the same research group reported on results from similar blue whale tagging conducted from 1993 through 2008: Irvine LM, Mate BR, Winsor MH, Palacios DM, Bograd SJ, et al. (2014) Spatial and Temporal Occurrence of Blue Whales off the U.S. West Coast, with Implications for Management.

U.S. Pacific Fleet is funding the deployment, data analysis and reporting for this 2014 field effort. Continued follow-on field work in 2015 and 2016 is also planned.

An additional eight Advanced-Dive-Behavior (ADB) tags will be deployed on four blue whales and four fin whales. These tags collect high-resolution data on time, depth and body orientation as the whales feed. Although of shorter duration (up to six weeks), data from the ADB tags will be combined with satellite-sensed oceanographic data to characterize blue and fin whale habitats within Southern California and insights into their variable foraging habits at depth that cannot be seen during surface observations.

Work is being conducted under a research permit to OSU from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Preliminary results will be reported by the Navy to the National Marine Fisheries Service via an annual monitoring report for the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing Study Area in the late spring of 2015.