Endangered

Underwater listening station detects the calls of rare whales

A North Atlantic right whale with its tail flukes above the water’s surface. (Georgia Department of Natural Resources under NOAA permit #15488)

A North Atlantic right whale with its tail flukes above the water’s surface. (Georgia Department of Natural Resources under NOAA permit #15488)

A listening buoy called Melville heard the distinctive call of an endangered North Atlantic right whale off New York on Monday, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced.

The buoy, which is anchored to the ocean floor using a stretchy hose so that it can rise and fall with the water, listens for underwater sounds and then transmits them by satellite. Set up by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the WCS, the listening device is located off New York state.

“Having the ability to detect North Atlantic right whales and other species rarely seen in New York waters is extremely important given their endangered status,” Howard Rosenbaum of the WCS said in a statement.

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There are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales alive, according to the WCS— the cetacean earned that moniker because it was the “right” whale to hunt during the era of commercial whaling. It can grow up to almost 60 feet long.

The listening station also heard a right whale call on October 26— it’s unknown if it was the same individual just heard— but most of what it’s heard are fin whales.

The same buoy heard another whale, the endangered sei whale, call on Halloween— and that whale type isn’t usually found in that area.