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WCS and Woods Hole Launch NY Whale Study
December 23, 2014
WCS’s New York Aquarium Launches a Joint Venture with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to Better Understand and Minimize Threats to Whales in New York Bight
WCS’s New York Seascape Program Will Use New Real-Time Whale Monitoring Technology In NY-Metro Region with New Grant from the Vetlesen Foundation
* Why the Program is Important: The whale monitoring system is designed to identify and protect endangered whales and their marine habitats in this area
Brooklyn, N.Y. – Dec. 23, 2014 – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society’s) New York Seascape Program, based at the WCS New York Aquarium, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have partnered on a joint venture to protect whales in the New York Bight using new real-time monitoring technology, a program supported by The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.
Though whales are seasonally seen in local waters, much is still unknown about them in the New York Bight, an area of water that ranges from Cape May, N.J., to Montauk, N.Y. Whales found in this area are subject to many human activities, some of them harmful, such as ship strikes and underwater noise from various anthropogenic (human) related activities. WCS and Woods Hole Oceanographic scientists will implement new ways to better protect whales – many of which are the focus of state and federal efforts related to species and habitat protection.
“We have many to thank for making this new program possible, including the Vetlesen Foundation and the state of New York” said WCS President and CEO, Dr. Cristián Samper. “We look forward to working with our partners at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to implement these exciting new technologies to protect migratory whales that spend time in New York’s waters. We share the ocean with these species and have a responsibility to protect them when they are here.”
“I commend WCS and WHOI on this joint whale monitoring venture. Their work meshes well with New York's efforts to monitor the whales in the NY Bight,” says NYS DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “This summer DEC asked boaters to voluntarily slowdown in state waters to protect the visiting humpback whales that delighted many New Yorkers. Better information on the location and movement of whales is key to protect these magnificent endangered species.”
WCS has already begun working with scientists from WHOI, who have pioneered new whale monitoring technology - a digital acoustic monitoring buoy - to listen for and report the calls of whales in near-real time via satellite to a shore-side computer and publically accessible website. With complementary support from the federal government, the team will use a wave glider, a new mobile autonomous vehicle that harnesses the energy of the waves and the sun to move and power the acoustic instrument.
Near real-time detections from both the digital acoustic monitoring buoy and the wave glider can help minimize threats whales face from human activity by alerting ocean users about when and where whales are present. The system will initially be used for research, alerting scientists about where they can find whales using planes or boats to better assess their behaviors and habitat use. WCS and WHOI envision the technology will contribute to New York State’s comprehensive research and monitoring objectives to protect whales and their habitat in the New York Bight.
Ultimately, as part of the project, WCS plans to make the near-real time information on whales available at the New York Aquarium and via the internet. This monitoring system will advance the understanding of whale occurrence, habitat use, and interactions with the diverse human activities occurring in these New York waters.
“With this joint venture between WCS and Woods Hole Oceanographic, we’ll be able to learn more about whales in their native habitat including their migratory routes, with the potential to avert adverse impacts they face from human activity in the New York Bight,” said WHOI President and Director Susan Avery. “A strategy like this will quickly generate the scientific information needed by state and federal managers in their conservation planning.”
The WCS New York Aquarium launched the New York Seascape Program in 2010 to restore healthy populations of threatened local marine species, protect local marine waters, and inspire New Yorkers about the wonders of their local waters. In addition to whales and dolphins, other animals that can be found in this area include sharks, skates, seals, sea turtles, tunas, deep sea corals, and more – many of which depend on the Hudson Canyon, the East Coast’s largest submarine canyon.
Beyond the New York Aquarium, WCS’s marine conservation work and activities protect marine species and their habitat in the waters of 23 countries across all of the world’s oceans to help save marine life.
The New York Aquarium broke ground this year on Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, a 57,000-square-foot building that will house more than 115 species of marine wildlife, including sharks, skates, and rays. It will feature exhibits dedicated to the animals of the New York Bight, and plans to include an exhibit on the real-time whale detection technology. Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is scheduled to open in 2016.
For more information about these photos or to speak with the experts involved, please contact Barbara Russo at 718-265-3428 or
Barbara Russo – 718- 265-3428;
Max Pulsinelli - 718-220- 5182;
Steve Fairchild – 718- 220- 5189;
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:
Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium
is open every day of the year. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Fall/winter/spring hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily. Tickets are $11.95 per person (ages 3 & up), and include Aquarium admission plus one admission to the new 4-D Theater; children age 2 and under are admitted free. Fridays after 4 p.m. in the summer and after 3 p.m. in the fall, Aquarium admission is by pay-what-you-wish donation. The aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. The New York Aquarium is located on property owned by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at
. Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the WCS New York Aquarium, a beloved part of Brooklyn and all of the City of New York. Due to Hurricane Sandy we are partially opened. Check our website for more information.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit
Special Note to the Media:
If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a Web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to wcs.org.
Freshwater Turtles & Tortoises