A team of researchers plan to use autonomous gliders, air support and acoustic devices to listen and watch for endangered North Atlantic right whales to determine their migratory routes along the east coast.
Davies said similar work last summer in the Roseway Basin, a known right whale habitat, left scientists shaking their heads when they recorded 93 sightings in August and then found they had all left just two weeks later.
"The fact that there were so many whales and they just deserted the whole area was shocking," she said."So it deepens the mystery because we don't know where they went." Canadian and American scientists will slip the sleek yellow underwater vehicles into waters off Nova Scotia on July 27 and begin a roughly two-month long process of collecting data on the marine ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Moira Brown, a senior scientist with the New England Aquarium, said they are seeing fewer and fewer of the animals in the bay and they are arriving in Canadian waters earlier than usual.
"It looks like the whales may be shifting around and this is the first year of a really huge multi-institutional effort to try to figure out where they're going."The project comes as the North Atlantic right whale population inches up slowly, rising to about 520 from a mere 300 in the late 1990s. Their population has grown by about two per cent a year, with an average of 22 calves being born since 2001 - but only 11 born last year. In 2003, the shipping lanes were altered in the Bay of Fundy to steer vessels clear of known whale habitats due to work done by the whale researchers. Five years later, Transport Canada made the Roseway Basin an area to be avoided by ships of a certain size.