Please select your home edition
Composites Constructions 2021 - CAPE50 - LEADERBOARD

Richard Sears lives his dream studying Blue Whales

by Volvo Penta 4 Mar 2020 07:06 PST
Richard Sears © Jennifer Humphrey

Richard Sears - President of Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) has been studying Blue Whales off of Canada's St Lawrence coast for more than 40 years. But how do you go about collecting data on these shy giants?

Every summer for over four decades, Richard Sears and his team at the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) have been out at sea, recording and taking samples of Blue Whales. These animals are notoriously hard to spot. So, a good day for whale research means one thing: calm waters.

Calm waters and no waves are the ideal weather conditions to be able to collect data for this important whale research. Part of the team's work consists of understanding important aspects of the whales' lives, including patterns of residency, population size and the health and condition of the whales. Richard says: "The glamorous part of the work is to get out on the boat and see the animals. They are amazing to watch".

He continues: "We check the weather the night before. Our everyday work consists of getting up in the morning and getting our gear ready and then getting out on the water. As soon as we have pretty good light, we hope to find them. Since these animals are so mobile, you have to be mobile as well."

The boat, the team use to conduct this research, is a Targa 32 powered by twin D4-260 Volvo Penta engines. Which provides the power and agility to get near enough to these animals to conduct their research effectively and safely.

Once the team has collected tissue samples and photographs its back to dry land to analyze their finds and record them in the extensive database.

No easy feat

Studying mobile marine life - even something as large as a blue whale - is not easy. The ocean is quite literally immense. It covers 70% of the Earth's surface. You have probably seen this figure before but have you really thought about it? Picture the vast Saharan desert, the seemingly endless stretches of Himalayan mountains, the uninhabited Australian bush - all this land and more is just 30% of the earth. Now imagine searching for creatures in an area more than twice that size. It's no simple task.

The blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, is thought to be the largest animal (25m long) to ever inhabit the earth - larger even than any dinosaur we know of. Its tongue alone weighs more than a full-grown elephant - yet as animals go, we know very little about them. This is, in part, because they migrate huge distances and spend the majority of their time below the surface of the ocean.

An important task

Globally, the blue whale population is estimated to be 10,000 - 25,000, roughly 3-11% of the population size estimated in 1911. Commercial whaling played a huge roll in the speedy decline of the global blue whale population in the 19th and 20th century. The International Whaling Commission banned the taking of blue whales in 1967. Today, blue whales are protected under both the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act - and have been protected under the ESA since 1970. This means that the blue whale is in danger of extinction throughout its global range. The biggest threat to them today is vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear.

The total number of blue whales in the Northwest Atlantic population, where Richard and his team operate, is unknown, but it is estimated that it does not exceed 250 adults. There is a recovery Strategy that has been put in place in Canada with the long-term goal to reach 1,000 mature blue whales - Richard and his team at Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) contribute valuable data to this process.

"There is a lot of work to be done," says Richard. "Even though our contribution is probably pretty slim we are adding to the overall knowledge of this species. Hopefully, they'll be other generations of biologists who will continue it."

Related Articles

Volvo Penta expands its DPI Aquamatic sterndrive
Award-winning DPI Aquamatic sterndrive is now on the market as a triple installation This new setup will allow larger boats - in the marine commercial and leisure sectors - to benefit from its outstanding performance and reliability and increase the power offering for existing boats. Posted on 8 Jul
Volvo Penta partnership with Bravada Yachts
Invictus marks several important "firsts" for Volvo Penta Luxury houseboat manufacturer Bravada Yachts selected Volvo Penta as the propulsion provider of choice for the builder's new Atlas V Series 80 x 22 custom lake houseboat, Invictus, located on Lake Powell, Arizona. Posted on 20 Apr
Volvo Penta debuts Assisted Docking VR experience
Assisted Docking technology aims to address one of the most challenging aspects of boating. Visitors at the 2021 PBIBS will have an opportunity to "test drive" the new Assisted Docking system using a VR simulator and to learn about the company's full range of propulsion solutions that are aimed at creating an easy boating experience. Posted on 26 Mar
Tiara Yachts confident in Assisted Docking system
A game-changing next step in the Inboard Performance System (IPS) experience Early this year, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Volvo Penta launched the industry's first fully-integrated Assisted Docking system, a game-changing next step in the Inboard Performance System (IPS) experience. Posted on 20 Mar
Behind the scenes look at Assisted Docking system
Volvo Penta hosted a live webcast for the marine industry Volvo Penta hosted a live webcast as a digital showcase of its new Assisted Docking technology for the marine industry. The virtual event gave the industry a chance to learn more about the new boat docking system and engage with Volvo Penta experts Posted on 19 Mar
Sunseeker's new 65 Sport Yacht
Powered exclusively by Volvo Penta IPS When Sunseeker International revealed its radically new 65 Sport Yacht design in late 2020, it was almost certainly the sculptured exterior styling, innovative helm concept, and stylish interior appointments that initially caught the eye. Posted on 12 Feb
Volvo Penta launch Assisted Docking System
New Assisted Docking automation technology gives the captain a whole new level of control New Assisted Docking automation technology gives the captain a whole new level of control, taking another important step toward self-docking and easy boating. Posted on 12 Jan
Volvo Penta hits 30,000 IPS installations
IPS units deliver a unique user experience with up to 30% reduced fuel consumption Volvo Penta Inboard Performance System (IPS) units deliver a unique user experience with up to 30% reduced fuel consumption and 30% less CO2 emissions compared to traditional inboard shafts. Posted on 13 Oct 2020
The new Mangusta GranSport 33
Powered by Volvo Penta's latest edition D13 IPS1350 The new Mangusta GranSport 33 is one of the first large yachts to benefit from the new semi-planing edition of Volvo Penta IPS1350. Posted on 15 Sep 2020
Volvo Penta at Virtual Palm Beach Int'l Boat Show
D13-IPS1350 is Volvo Penta's most powerful IPS to date Volvo Penta will feature its latest engines, drive systems and integrated propulsion solutions at the Virtual Palm Beach International Boat Show, which opens Thursday, May 14. Posted on 15 May 2020
Get My Boat 2021 FOOTERHighfield Boats - PBW - FOOTERMarina Exchange FOOTER 1