Tagging Whales in Stellwagen Bank this July!

Humpback in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Elliot Hazen

Do you remember the first story in Ocean Frontiers—Saving Whales at Stellwagen Bank? Not sure anyone could forget the amazing whale footage and the funny little suction cup things called DTAGs that the scientists were sticking onto the whales. But in case you did, you can always watch the clip from that story here. We are also excited to give an update on how the whale-tagging is going this summer.

Marine ecologist, Ari Friedlaender, attaches a DTAG on a humpback. Photo by Alison Stimpert

Dave Wiley, research coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts, might have one of the coolest jobs ever. Since 2002, each summer, Dr. Wiley and his colleagues head out on a 187-foot research vessel to tag whales—to collect data, such as how whales move around, what their feeding patterns are, what they do at different depths and when they vocalize. Watch them in action here in a short 3-minute video.

Humpback breaches near research team. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

In those two weeks this summer, Dr. Wiley and his crew successfully tagged 21 humpback whales and identified around 160 individuals. Dr. Wiley proclaims, “We probably have one of the largest databases for fine-scale foraging behavior of anywhere in the world at this point.” Wiley added however, “The most striking insight is that each humpback has its own set of behaviors, often confounding efforts to generalize about the species. It’s frustrating and complicated and fascinating all at the same time.”

Ultimately, Dr. Wiley and his colleagues’ goal is to use the collected data to influence fishing and shipping rules that make sense for the whales and will help protect them. Read more about this summer’s tagging here in the New York Times.  

Best regards from all of us on the Ocean Frontiers team!
Karen Anspacher-Meyer
Executive Director, Green Fire Productions



East Coast Tour, a Success

People filled the New England Aquarium IMAX Theatre for the
East Coast Premiere of Ocean Frontiers

April is a busy month for the Ocean Frontiers film—from three East Coast premieres back-to-back during the first week of this month to the several West Coast premieres set for next week—we are delighted to share the film with so many communities across the nation.

Ocean Frontiers features exciting, success stories from the frontiers of ocean conservation, and we are finding folks are hungry to hear them. We are often faced with environmental challenges, yet are not presented with the tools to move forward. Ocean Frontiers brings to light the need for smart, collaborative ocean planning, and clearly conveys the solutions to a plethora of ocean and coastal issues that planning can provide.

We kicked off the East Coast tour on April 3rd at the New England Aquarium—a beautiful setting overlooking Boston Harbor. This Boston Premiere was held in conjunction with the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary’s 20th Anniversary. Stellwagen Bank is a home to the endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which there are only an estimated 350-550 left in the world. This free celebration packed the IMAX Theatre with over 350 individuals who care deeply their ocean. Thanks to the New England Aquarium, Massport, Conservation Law Foundation and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary for co-hosting!

The very next morning we attended the release of an exciting new, free iPhone/iPad Application called WhaleALERT. This application is designed to help protect the North Atlantic right whale. WhaleALERT came to life out of an early partnership of “unlikely allies” who teamed up in 2007 to reduce the rate of whale strikes by ships. This partnership resulted in the first port in the nation to move shipping lanes to protect marine mammals. This story of the moving of Boston’s shipping lanes is featured in Ocean Frontiers—view the video clip here—so, we were especially excited to be a part of the unveiling of the WhaleALERT application—another step in protecting the these magnificent creatures and the ocean we all depend upon.

That same evening, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island—an ocean champion—kicked off the Rhode Island premiere of Ocean Frontiers at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography Bay Campus. The entire Rhode Island congressional delegation were honorary co-hosts along with 15 conservation organizations, businesses and academic institutions. Following the film, a lively panel discussion ensued between the attentive Narragansett audience and ocean experts about Rhode Island’s successes and lessons learned while creating Rhode Island’s Ocean Plan (SAMP) and how this can help with regional ocean planning in New England.

The following day, Thursday, April 5, we closed our East Coast tour with a successful premiere in New Jersey at the beautiful Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute. Students, professors, renewable ocean energy proponents, fishermen, conservationists, and the community joined together to watch the film and take part in another lively panel discussion—sharing trials, tribulations and their hopes and plans—to protect and manage the very shore and sea that New Jersey people rely on and adore so much. Thanks to Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute, Atlantic Wind Connection, Viking Village and Clean Ocean Action for co-hosting!

Would you like to see more partnerships and smart planning taking place in our ocean and coastal communities to ensure the protection of our vital ocean resources for economies today and generations tomorrow? Please consider writing a letter to your members of Congress today!

Check out photos from the Ocean Frontiers East Coast Tour.

Thanks for all you do!
The Green Fire Productions Team

Ocean Frontiers: Saving Whales at Stellwagen Bank

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a rich stretch of ocean at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. It is home to several species of endangered whales including humpback whales and North Atlantic right whales. There are only an estimated 350-550 right whales remaining in the world.

The shipping lanes of Boston Harbor traverse through the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, bringing large ships through whale feeding grounds, resulting in deadly collisions.

Taking cues from the great whales’ travel ways, their sounds and whale song, shipping executives, marine biologists, the Port of Boston and an energy company came together and found a solution that worked for both commerce and whales. In 2007, the collaborative work of these ‘unlikely allies’ resulted in the first port in the nation, the Port of Boston, to move the shipping lanes to protect marine mammals—reducing the risk of ship strikes to endangered right whales and other large whale species by more than 80%.

In their on-going efforts, the collaborators recently released an exciting, new iPhone/iPad application called WhaleALERT. WhaleALERT is designed to augment existing ship navigation tools informing mariners of the safest and most current information to reduce the risk of ship and right whale collisions along the Eastern seaboard.

Learn more from the people featured in Ocean Frontiers

Video Clips