You never know what you will see!

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC)’s aerial survey team has been in the air, weather and conditions permitting, the past few weeks looking for marine mammals, especially North Atlantic right whales, and other whale species. The aircraft flies at an altitude of 750 feet and is often in the air 6 hours, sometimes a bit longer.

The NOAA Twin Otter, flying out of the Hyannis Airfield, has had a variety of sightings in recent weeks, among them a rare bowhead whale.  It’s been a crazy few weeks!

On April 18 they saw 1 minke whale in Rhode Island Sound. During a survey of Stellwagen Bank and Wilkinson Basin the following day, April 19, the aerial science crew of Tim Cole, Pete Duley and Allison Henry sighted 1 bowhead whale, 6 humpback whales, 7 fin whales, 3 minke whales, 2 pilot whales, 2 common dolphins, and 44 Atlantic white-sided dolphins.  On April 21, the team sighted 40 white-sided dolphins on Cashes Ledge.  Another aerial survey on April 30 of Jordan Basin and Jeffreys Bank sighted 1 fin whale.

Franklin Basin was the focus of the NEFSC’s aerial survey on  May 3. The team observed 2 humpback whales, 3 sei whales, 2 minke whales, 248 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, 56 harbor porpoises, and 1 basking shark. They also sighted 6 North Atlantic right whales.

On May 5, the aerial survey science team of Pete Duley, Allison Henry and Christin Khan conducted a survey of Jeffreys Ledge and Wildcat Knoll in the Gulf of Maine.  The team sighted 2 humpback whales, 4 fin whales, 9 sei whales, 1 minke whale, 35 common dolphins, 5 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, 6 harbor porpoise, 2 basking sharks, and 5  feeding North Atlantic right whales, including a mom and calf pair.

Some of the views from the aircraft May 5  as it flew over Cape Cod headed for the survey area.

Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC /NOAA

Monomoy Island, south of Chatham. Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

A close-up view of Chapin Beach in Dennis, Mass. Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

A wide angle view of Chapin Beach from the NOAA Twin Otter as the aerial team heads out for another survey.  Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

Photo buy Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

Sunset reflects off the aircraft. Photo by Christin Khan, NEFSC/NOAA

On May 6, 7, and 8 the same aerial science team surveyed the Great South Channel area and areas known as SCOPEX North and South.

The team’s May 6 aerial survey, lasting 7 and a half hours, of Great South Channel and SCOPEX South was a busy one.  The team saw 15 humpback whales, 7 fin whales, 11 sei whales, 8 minke whales, 3 pilot whales, 11 common dolphins, 41 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, 1 harbor porpoise. and 38 right whales.  During the flight the aircraft responded to a vessel in distress, then resumed their survey after refueling in Nantucket.

On May 7  the team surveyed the Great South Channel area looking for an acoustic glider, which they found after looking during the previous few days of surveys.  They also sighted 1 right whale, feeding.

May 8 was an amazing day. The aerial team observed 1 bowhead whale, 9 humpback whales, 9 fin whales, 31 sea whales, 3 minke whales, 1 pilot whale, 15 common dolphins, 14 harbor porpoise, and 7 basking sharks. They also saw 65 North Atlantic right whales, including several mom and calf pairs,  Most of the right whales were feeding.

NEFSC Aerial Survey Team

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