Updated: January 23, 2012
Approval has been given for a controversial plan to satellite tag an endangered species of killer whale that plies the waters off the Pacific Coast. Researchers hope the tracking devices will reveal the orcas’ activities during the winter, but another expert said the tagging could harm the vulnerable whales.
Southern resident killer whales are one of the most studied marine mammal species in the world, yet very little is known about where they go and what they eat during the winter months.
Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has U.S. government approval to attach the tiny tracking devices to the dorsal fins of six whales per season.
“We’re trying to get better information about what they’re doing during the winter. This is a period of time where a number of animals seem to disappear from the population,” Mr. Hanson said in an interview.
“Trying to better understand what the risk factors during the winter are would potentially help management biologists ... make sure we have what’s necessary to meet the recovery goals that are in the recovery plan.”
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