North Atlantic right whales are notoriously difficult to track, but a new method for tagging them could hold promise for federal efforts to monitor the critically endangered species.
Researchers have traditionally approached right whales in a small boat and applied suction cup tags using a long pole. The method is often risky for both researchers applying the tags and for the whales themselves. And with a population of fewer than 340 right whales, poor weather conditions make it difficult to consistently tag and monitor them.
But this summer, for the first time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration successfully deployed drones to drop suction cup tags to the backs of right whales congregating on Georges Bank.