Development of a New Delivery and Attachment System for Tagging Large Cetaceans
MOSS LANDING MARINE LABS CA
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Large cetaceans are particularly difficult to tag because they spend a great deal of time underwater, are difficult to approach, and the tagging process can alter the whales behavior. We developed a new method of delivering tags for placement on large whales. Sea lions were trained to carry a harness and attached camera system along with carrying a suction-cup tag in a mouth piece. Using a 16 foot gray whale model, sea lions were trained to place the tag about 1 m behind the blowhole on the dorsum. Sea lions were trained for open-ocean release, traveling next to or on the vessel, responding to acoustical signals, and placing the tag on the whale model as it was pulled through the ocean at 2-3 knots. Successful placement in the correct position occurred 95 of the attempts. The sea lions will next be trained with a live gray whale housed at SeaWorld of California before moving back into the ocean for training for summer 1998. The attachment system seems to be an effective method for tagging large whales in various conditions e.g. rough weather, at night, and when the whales are underwater.
- Biological Oceanography