UK wildlife team spot right whale from Saga ship

Saga and ORCA have partnered on cruises for over ten years Saga and ORCA have partnered on cruises for over ten years

A team of volunteers from a UK-based marine conservation charity sighted a rare North Atlantic right whale during a survey in Canada onboard Saga Sapphire.       

ORCA, a marine conservation charity whose network of volunteers collect data about whales and dolphins, have a team of volunteers on the cruise which left Southampton on September 15.

The trip is one of many ORCA have run in partnership with Saga Cruises over more than ten years of working together.

The North Atlantic right whale, with a global population estimated to be less than 500, was spotted in the morning of October 7. Canada is one of the last places in the world where they are seen, but sightings are scarce.

ORCA director, Sally Hamilton, said: 'This is a first for ORCA: the North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction, so any sightings that can shed light on their movements could help to protect the last remaining members of this species.'

North Atlantic right whales reach up to 14mtr long, and can weigh up to 70,000kg. They are baleen whales, which mean they use long strips of keratin to filter seawater and collect krill and other invertebrates, remarked Hamilton.

2017 has been a devastating year for the species, she added, with the loss of 12 animals in the last nine months, which represents 2% of the global population.

'In particular, copepod’s, which are the species largest source of food, found a new summer home earlier in the year in the Gulf of St Lawrence during the snow crab fishery, which has put the animals at critical risk of ship strike and entanglement.'

The team have been supporting the bridge crew throughout this voyage, particularly during their time in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

'ORCA volunteers have been assisting in spotting whales to help avoid any near misses or collisions,' continued Hamilton.

'The area is subject to strict speed restrictions to protect the endangered population, and the crew were keen to make sure there was no risk of them putting any animals at risk,' Captain Burgess, master of the Saga Sapphire, said.

'We met with the ORCA staff early on in the cruise as we were keen to set up a communications link and for them to let us know if they spotted any whales in case we had to alter course to avoid them. A speed restriction of less than 10 knots had been imposed in the Gulf of St Lawrenceto protect the North Atlantic right whale and we’re delighted that ORCA spotted one of these rare species,' said Burgess.

ORCA notes the cruise had already been record breaking with 17 different species spotted during surveys and excursions on the trip. In total, 179 whales, 379 dolphins and 27 porpoises have been spotted in 23 days on board.

Posted 15 October 2017

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