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Experts gather to solve mystery of largest recorded die-off of great whales
Date:3/16/2010

); Fundacin Patagonia Natural (FPN); and Fundacin Ecocentro.

Since 2005, a total of 308 dead whales were recorded in the waters around Peninsula Valds, 88 percent of which were calves less than three months old. The deaths constitute 28 percent of live calf sightings during that period.

Examination of samples taken from the beached whale calves ruled out many of the suspected causes, and some have revealed unusually thin blubber layers.

In 2009, the Scientific Committee of the IWC identified the die-off as a management priority, prompting the organization of the workshop.

"Pennsula Valds is one of the most important calving and nursing grounds for the species found throughout the Southern Hemisphere," said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, director of the WCS's Ocean Giants Program and a member of the IWC's Scientific Committee. "By working with the government of Argentina, the Province of Chubut, the IWC, and our diverse team of experts and specialists, we can increase our chances of solving this mystery, the critical next step to ensuring a future for this population of southern right whales."

Workshop participants will consider a number of hypotheses on the cause or causes of calf mortalities such as: biotoxins; disease; environmental factors at their nursing grounds; and potential variations in prey availability at the whales' distant feeding grounds.

The workshop also includes participants from: the Centro Nacional Patagnico; the Zoological Society of London; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the World Conservation Union (IUCN); the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; the British Antarctic Survey; the Marine Mammal Center; the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission; and other local and international organizations.

Growing up to 55 feet in length and weighing up to 60 tons, the southern right whale is now the most abundant species of right whale in the world. Unlike the North Atlantic and
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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