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Whales are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. They inhabit all of the world’s major oceans, including the Arctic, the Antarctic and the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. From the blue whale, which is the world’s largest, to the elegant narwhal, these enigmatic marine mammals attest to the beauty of nature. After having been hunted for centuries, some whale populations have rebounded, but whales are still vulnerable to plastic pollution, climate change and loss of habitat due to anthropogenic factors.

Tracking whales with Argos

In 2018, the Argos user community tracked 1,320 whales using the Argos system, shedding new light on the migratory patterns, home range, and behavior of these majestic animals.

World Whale Day is the occasion to raise awareness about these marine mammals and to protect these beautiful, vulnerable creatures.

Please find a selection of articles, websites and videos highlighting the work of Argos users to understand and protect whale species around the world.

Understanding the impact of human activity on narwhals in the Arctic

narwhal
Photo courtesy Carsten Egevang

Wide-scale changes are taking place in the Arctic, with warmer temperatures leading to shrinking summer ice coverage.  More ice-free water means easier access for vessels and industrial operations, such as exploration for oil and gas, shipping, sand dredging and fisheries. Faced with these changes, how can we protect vulnerable Arctic marine mammals? Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources explains that an interdisciplinary approach – and a wide range of technologies – must be used to understand the impact of human activity on whales in this once untouched region.

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The Plight of Whales

Humpback whale
Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

In the Chesapeake Bay area of the East Coast of the United States, scientists have noted an increase of whale deaths between 2016-2018.  While 13 whales were killed in Virginia in the ten years between 1990 and 2000, according to studies, 14 deaths were reported in the same area between 2016 through 2018. Susan Barco, Research Coordinator and Senior Scientist, and her colleague Mark Swingle, Director of Research and Conservation, have been using Argos satellite tags to study whale movements in and near the Chesapeake. This article from the Chesapeake Bay Magazine highlights their findings about the interactions between whales and shipping routes.

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NOAA’s Whale Watch program

Helen Bailey, of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, works closely with a team of scientists from NOAA Fisheries, and Oregon State University to combine Argos satellite tracking data with satellite observations of ocean conditions in order to predict locations of blue whales off the West Coast. The system, called WhaleWatch, produces monthly maps of blue whale “hotspots” to alert ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.

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Watch the movie “A Voice for Whales: Using Satellite Data to Protect Marine Mammals”

 

Azores Whale Lab

Learn more about this dynamic laboratory in the North Atlantic Ocean. 

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whale

15.02.2019 Animal tracking applications Argos celebrates World Whale Day

Whales are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. They inhabit all of the world’s major oceans, including the Arctic, the Antarctic and the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. From the blue whale, which is the world’s largest, to the elegant narwhal, these enigmatic marine mammals attest…
narwhal

15.02.2019 Animal tracking applications Understanding the impact of human activity on narwhals in the Arctic

Wide-scale changes are taking place in the Arctic, with warmer temperatures leading to shrinking summer ice coverage.  More ice-free water means easier access for vessels and industrial operations, such as exploration for oil and gas, shipping, sand dredging and fisheries. Faced with these changes, how can we protect vulnerable Arctic marine…
Magellanic penguins, including one with an Argos tag on its back, and one Humboldt penguin (credits Antarctic Research Trust)

15.02.2019 marine animals Shedding new light on South American penguins home range

Humboldt and Magellanic penguins live in the southern tip of South America. On the Pacific coast, they benefit from the high productivity of the Humboldt Current but are also threatened by artisanal fisheries. They are thus considered as either vulnerable or near threatened, and conservation measures should be taken. Their…
A drifting CO2 measuring buoy just before deployment (Credits JAMSTEC)

31.01.2019 Oceanography and meteorological applications Measuring CO2 in faraway regions of the ocean

The ocean is one of the most important carbon sinks on Earth. Thus, accurate estimation of CO2 uptake by the ocean is important for predicting global climate change. Automated buoys with data collected by Argos satellite telemetry make it possible to measure CO2 over the whole ocean during long periods,…

24.01.2019 Flash news Argos system contributes to Argo program milestone

Last month, the international Argo program reached a very important milestone: Over 2 million ocean profiles have been collected by Argo since 1999, greatly improving the understanding of the world’s oceans. The Argos satellite telemetry system has contributed to this success, by relaying 70% (1.5 million) of these precious ocean…
An eel in the sea with a pop-up tag. Credits G. Simon, Perpignan University

17.01.2019 Animal tracking applications Eels, long-range travellers

Eels, threatened by pollution, virus and parasites, overfishing, habitat loss and climate change have seen their population drop in the past decades. Their life and behaviour are studied to better understand the causes of this decrease. Their migration – when adults cross the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce…

08.01.2019 Animal tracking applications Argos system contributes to French National Action Plan to protect Marine turtles in the Caribbean

In the French West Indies, five turtle species are threatened. This includes the hawksbill turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle, loggerhead turtle and olive Ridley turtle. Three of these species are tracked closely by national and local authorities. Protecting wildlife with Argos The Argos system is one of the prinicipal technologies…
shark fin

18.12.2018 Animal tracking applications Argos satellite telemetry, an important tool for conserving migratory sharks

The 3rd Meeting of the Signatories of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks took place from December 10-14th at the Museum for Oceanography of Monaco. It was hosted by the Principality of Monaco. This high-level meeting united government representatives, non-governmental organizations, conservationists, scientists…
EUCAW attendees

27.11.2018 Flash news The European User Conference on Argos Wildlife : A success

From November 21st to 22nd a group of biologists and Argos tag manufacturers from many countries gathered in Toulouse to share their work using the Argos system at the European Users Conference on Argos Wildlife (EUCAW). Presentations concentrated on more than 80 species and touched on topics as…
Forest elephant after attachment of PTT (Credits North Carolina Zoo)

23.11.2018 Animal tracking applications Argos helps to define a protected area for elephants in Cameroon

African elephants are under assault due primarily to the illicit ivory trade and, to a lesser extent, to habitat destruction and human incursions. Numbers are plummeting throughout most range states. Understanding elephant movement patterns, home ranges, land use patterns and corridor use are essential in developing conservation strategies.