Researchers aboard a scientific vessel in the Bering Sea spotted an extremely elusive whale and were able to snap photographic proof. The North Pacific right whale has not been seen in almost 10 years.
Maggie Mooney-Seus of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center said “What was exciting was, you know, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to find these. Because it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, when you have a population this small and you’re looking for them in the eastern Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska – it’s a pretty big area to cover.”
The population is only believed to contain 30 to 50 individuals, making it the rarest whale to inhabit U.S. waters. Learning more about this whales is crucial to helping them survive.
The researchers were able to track these particular whales down by using “sonobuoys” that record sound underwater.
The researchers are looking for a “whale sign,” which is a specific sound. The sound leads the team to a location.
The vessel was able to track down two whales using this method. Once they found the animal, researchers were able to take both photos and skin samples for later analysis.
The find was amazing. Finding a whale in the ocean is almost as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. Previous missions with similar goals have failed, but this success is fueling more missions. The team will continue to look for whales into the fall.