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With help from the Office of Naval Research, a right whale pied "Piper" shows the way to recovery for this highly endangered species

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 22, 2000 - Thanks to new technology sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, for the first time ever, a female Northern Right Whale has been tracked every step of her journey between northern feeding grounds off New Brunswick, Canada, and southern breeding grounds off the Georgia and Florida coasts. In late July, a rare female right whale, earlier named Piper by researchers from the Right Whale Consortium, was outfitted with a satellite tracking tag while she was on her summer feeding range around the Bay of Fundy.

Female right whales like Piper are the future of this species; and that future just got a little bit brighter thanks to the ONR-sponsored technology for tracking the whales on their migrations over thousands of miles of open ocean. The tags are just one indication of the high priority placed on environmental stewardship by all components of the U.S. Navy.

"We have high hopes that Piper is a pregnant female who will calve in the breeding grounds off the coasts of Georgia and Florida near NAVBASE Jacksonville, and thus help to solve a centuries-old riddle concerning where breeding female right whales go during the three or more years between calves," said ONR Program Manager Bob Gisiner. "This species has mysteriously failed to recover since the end of commercial whaling, and poor breeding success may be one of the culprits."

Fewer than 12 calves are born to right whales each year on the breeding grounds and the most recent years have been among the worst; only three calves were seen each year in 1998 and 1999. This species is down to fewer than 350 total individuals -- probably fewer than 50 breeding age females -- and is still declining; one of the great mysteries about this species is where the reproductive females, so few in number and so critical to the recovery of this species, come from each year and where they go when they leave the breeding grounds.

The tags, about the size of two "C" batterie
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Contact: Diane Banegas
banegad@onr.navy.mil
703-696-2868
Office of Naval Research
21-Dec-2000


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