• Baby Ringed Seal tagged

    Solving the mystery of where seals and whales go!

    You may have seen seals in a harbor or a whale while boating or kayaking, but do you know how scientists track marine mammals when they are not so easy to see? In the past, theyíve used a variety of tools, from plastic tags to radio-transmitters. These methods required researchers to not only capture the animals to attach the device, but to recapture them to retrieve the instrument. In addition, they had to be within a few miles of the animal to electronically receive information. Currently, researchers use satellite-linked time-depth recorders to gather information about the location and diving behavior of animals. The information is remotely transmitted via satellite to the researchers.

    How do you attach an instrument to a seal or a whale?

    For seals and sea lions, instruments are fastened to the animalís fur with glue, which can last up to a year until the animal molts. Devices attached to a tag are also fastened to an animalís flipper, much like piercing an ear. Whales, dolphins and porpoises, however, donít have fur to glue an instrument to, so researchers use a dart that anchors the instrument into the animalís blubber. This probably feels like getting poked by a needle.

    Why scientists want to know where marine mammals go?

    To understand how human activities (such as shipping traffic, fishing, climate change, and pollution) affect whales and seals.

    To get a better idea of where marine mammals feed (the depths they dive for food and seasonal locations).