June 30, 2004

Poco Travels New England Waters

Poco continues to travel at a leisurely pace along the New England coast. From early March until June 11th he was observed in several locations from Gloucester to Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) designated the New England Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue Team as the local agency responsible for coordinating tracking reports of Poco while he inhabits the area. The team would also respond in the event of serious injury, stranding or entanglement of the beluga.

WSP has been conferring  regularly with the Marine Animal Rescue Team concerning sighting reports of Poco. Project Director, Catherine Kinsman also met with NMFS officials in Gloucester and caught up with the beluga in Gloucester Harbor, June 10 and 11. The whale appeared to be healthy in spite of a new injury to the tail fluke that seemed to be healing well.

Poco was observed alongside a deep sea fishing vessel approximately 15.5 miles off shore from Hampton, NH on June 12 and subsequently with boats and divers, to the north along the southern coast of Maine.  These most recent sightings which indicate he may be gradually making his way northward are encouraging.

Catherine noted that Poco’s interactive behaviour with boats and people has increased over his first season (2003) in the company of humans. This is consistent with other solitary sociable belugas the WSP has studied since 1998. For this reason, the WSP continues to have concerns for the beluga’s well being and has expressed to both US and Canadian officials, the need for additional protection measures. For the benefit of Poco and those who encounter him, as well as to continue our long-term research, the WSP has offered to conduct on-site programs in cooperation with US marine animal organizations and agencies. We will of course, continue our work for Poco should he return to Canadian waters.

We would like to express our gratitude to the following organizations and agencies for their efforts to track and protect Poco and for their assistance concerning our on-going research which contributes to important knowledge of the lives and behaviour of these unique solitary beluga whales:

National Marine Fisheries  Service—United States Government

Marine Animal Rescue Team—New England Aquarium

Whale Center of New England

Special thanks to all those people who have reported sightings and provided photos to the above organizations and to the Whale Stewardship[ Project.

Whale Stewardship Project

P.O. Box 36101

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Canada   B3J 3S9

1-902-889-2679

Email: wsp@eastlink.ca

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