Sunday, February 11, 2018

Your Voice Does Matter

Hi: This is Ingrid Biedron again.

I learned from a colleague who works on the Hill that it DOES make a difference if you contact your Senator or Congressperson! You can tweet them, call them, e-mail them, send them a letter, or visit them in person! It does matter! Even as few as 10 tweets on one issue is sometimes enough for a staffer to highlight that issue for their boss, the Senator or Congressperson. 

If you care about an issue, I encourage you to let your representatives know, in the way that is easiest for you. It is important that you contact the representatives for the STATE YOU LIVE IN! Most likely, representatives will be concerned about responding to issues that their constituents care about, so that they can count on their votes for re-election. That means that representatives will most likely listen to and address the concerns of the people they represent but may not pay as much attention to comments from people living outside the state they represent. To find out who your Senators and Representatives are and what their contact information and twitter handles are, I suggest just googling them!

Since I am an environmentalist and I am concerned about increased offshore drilling in US waters, I suggest you reach out to your representatives on this issue, letting them know if you don’t want drilling in US waters (right now, most coasts on the Continental US and Alaska, except for parts of Florida, are on the table for drilling as soon as 2019). If you would like to voice your concerns to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Federal Agency (under the Department of the Interior) regulating offshore drilling in the US. 

It is very important that as many people as possible attend the pubic listening sessions at various cities in the next few weeks and/or submit your comments online! 

Here are the New England public listening sessions:
  • February 13 – Hartford, CT
  • February 27 – Boston, MA
  • February 28 – Providence, RI
  • March 5 – Concord, NH
  • March 7 – Augusta, ME
Here are the links listing the public listening sessions and describing how to submit your comments online. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ingrid Biedron - The Nature of Conservation!

I’m Ingrid Biedron, a marine scientist and conservationist, and I’m excited to have an opportunity to blog for NECWA! I am a huge fan of NECWA and the blood, sweat and tears that its Founder, President, and CEO, Krill Carson, and NECWA’s many volunteers and interns, dedicate to wildlife in New England’s coast and oceans. 

I have worked at an ocean conservation NGO, for NOAA, and for several academic institutions, and I’m always looking for a better way to use science and policy to protect the planet and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. I am originally from Chelsea, Michigan, have spent a lot of time in New England, and currently live in Washington, DC. I’ll be blogging about my thoughts on marine ecosystems and how we can continue to protect them. 

So keep an eye on this blog site and thank you for taking an interest in the natural world around you!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

NECWA at the 22nd Marine Mammal Biennial Conference

This October, Brian Chmielecki (NECWA affiliate) attended the 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held in Halifax, Nova Scotia to share his collaborative research entitled “Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) Foraging and Distribution in Shallow Waters South of New England.” This conference was sponsored by the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Brian explaining some of the data during the conference. 
Brian’s poster presentation interpreted 30 years of data documenting fin whale locations, behavior, and foraging ecology for the inshore region bordered by Long Island, NY and Block Island, RI. Data were obtained using standardized sighting techniques and GPS technologies across 26 field seasons, logging in more than 380 whale watches. Additional sighting information was also included and came from collaborative efforts with other researchers working in the same area.  
Results showed that spring through summer finback feeding aggregates utilize different foraging areas each year, probably as a function of prey density and availability. Climate change and other anthropogenic threats are likely to influence these variables and are important to consider in the context of future fin whale population status and recovery.
Brian was approached by many enthusiastic visitors during the two days that he presented at the conference, which hosted over 1,700 guests from all over the world. Brian also attended a panel discussion that addressed strategies for improving communication between scientists and the general public. Brian also participated in a workshop conducted by the creator of a citizen science website called “WildBook”, which strives to bring animal photo-identification to life in an efficient and interactive manner. He learned that the company is developing a cetacean version of the application called “FlukeBook”, which can be accessed by all at
We are so thrilled Brian could experience the conference and its wealth of exciting information about marine mammals, and thank him for contributing to a progressive research effort that tells the story of this often elusive, but fascinating species!

Below is Brian's abstract and poster. Enjoy!

Assessment of Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) Seasonal Foraging in Shallow Continental Shelf Waters South of New England

Brian Chmielecki (New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance) et al.

Overview: The waters off southern New England and Long Island, NY are an important foraging region for a sub-set of the western North Atlantic fin whale population.

The inshore region is the subject of long term studies covering the New York bite south of eastern Long Island, NY and the region south and east of Block Island, RI. Questions regarding the annual movements of the animals and their relationship to other segments of the population remain unclear.
This study is part of a collaborative effort to document the habitat use and foraging ecology of cetaceans in this region.

Methods: Data is collected manually at 20 minute intervals including: position, course, sea-state, wind etc. A GPS unit records a continual track log which is archived for fine scale analysis. Sightings are recorded manually along the GPS track. When fin whales are encountered, their behavior pattern is assessed, and dedicated effort to obtain photographs for identification is made when possible.
Data collected from 26 field seasons includes over 380 whale watch cruises. Additional sighting data from affiliated vessels with experienced observers or verified reports are also included in the data set.

Results: Several regions have been confirmed to the south and east of Block Island, RI where feeding aggregations of cetaceans concentrate on during the late spring – summer. These locations are utilized in a variable manner within a given season and also vary annually due to prey availability and density.Impacts from anthropogenic sources and changes to prey availability due to climate change are important factors affecting this species' long-term recovery. This work will help fill gaps in knowledge of other researchers working to conserve this population.
Blog post written by Madeline Holton

Saturday, January 13, 2018

River Herring and the Fish Wardens that watch over them.

River herring live in the North Atlantic during the year and enter coastal fresh water rivers to spawn each spring.  The adults lay eggs in headwater ponds and in the rivers, then return to the ocean.  The eggs hatch within a few weeks and the young fry live in the breeding waters for a few months.  Then they make their way to the ocean where they will live for three or four years before making their own first spawning run.

The Taunton River/Nemasket River herring run the largest herring run and spawning area in Massachusetts.  Our river herring enter through Narragansett Bay, swim up the Taunton and Nemasket Rivers, and spawn in the pristine 5000 acre Assawompset Pond Complex.  The Nemasket River traditionally hosts a run of approximately half a million fish in recent years.  Herring have been part of Middleborough and Lakeville history since primitive times and played an important role in the area economics, agriculture, sport fishing and commercial fishing.

The Middleborough-Lakeville herring run is protected by seven volunteer fish wardens appointed by the selectmen of both towns.  The wardens and several volunteer observers work to protect and improve the herring habitat through sound management practices and public education.  They monitor and count herring during the annual migration, administer the herring catching program and coordinate habitat protection issues with other boards, the state and interested public groups.  Funding comes solely from the sale of herring permits (which has not happened since the 2006 ban on herring catching).

By Dave Cavanaugh, Fish Warden, Middleboro, MA

Friday, October 20, 2017

October 22, 2017 Ocean Exploration Cruise

Date: Sunday, October 22, 2017
Time: 8 am - 4 pm
Location: 7 Seas Whale Watch, 63 Rogers Street, Gloucester, MA
Vessel: Privateer IV

Registration Link for Trip

National Weather Service - Marine Forecast

7Seas Whale Watch

NECWA website

Liability Waiver

Our fall Ocean Exploration Cruise is a GO for this coming Sunday, October 22, from 8 am to 4 pm. We ride aboard the Privateer IV, which is owned and operated by 7 Seas Whale Watch, out of Gloucester, MA located at 63 Rogers Street. You will have to pay for parking so bring small bills, etc. 

Guest Naturalists: I am looking forward to seeing everyone offshore as well as working with our amazing Guest Naturalists for this trip that include: Wayne Petersen, Jim Sweeney, Thomas Robben, and David Clapp. These experts are also donating their time offshore and we greatly thank them for their efforts on NECWA's behalf. 

Our Ocean Exploration Cruises are an annual fundraising event for NECWA. We are a small, grassroots nonprofit that is all-volunteer and you will meet some of those volunteers onboard the boat this coming Sunday. Any money raised by this event (minus trip expenses) will be used to purchase field gear for this season's field work, including accurate GPS units, a Phantom drone, inflatable paddle board, kayak, and field calipers. In this way, your participation directly supports research, education, and conservation activities in the New England area. 

Update on October 20, 2017 - Hi. Our trip is a GO for this Sunday. Tickets are still available so please let friends, family, and colleagues know about this fundraising event. Here are some recent updates about the trip. Best, Krill
  • Where do I find updates about the trip? NECWA will provide updates about Sunday's trip by sending emails through our Constant Contact Event Site and by posting on our NECWA News blog at
  • What can I bring onboard the boat? You can bring any food or drink onboard the boat, but no alcoholic beverages. Please don't bring a large cooler as space will be limited on the boat. 
  • What should I wear when offshore? Dress in layers and dress for the weather. This trip runs in the rain or shine so dress accordingly. Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. And don't forget your binoculars and your camera!
  • Who do I contact with questions or issues? If you have any questions or concerns about this trip, please contact Krill at or call her cell phone at 508-369-8303.
  • Contributing to NECWA's onboard Nature Raffle: If you would like to donate a new or gently used item to NECWA's free onboard nature raffle, please bring it to the boat on Sunday morning and give to any NECWA staff or intern. Thank you in advance for your donation. 
  • Activities that will be conducted offshore: If time and weather allows, we will conduct a plankton tow offshore as well as chum for seabirds. We always collect sighting data and photographic images on all the marine wildlife seen offshore. This year, NECWA interns will also conduct a marine debris survey over the course of the trip.
  • What about Weather Issues? We will all be keeping our eye on the weather for Sunday and you can as well by checking the marine forecast from the National Weather Service. Click the link above. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trip Report from our recent Ocean Exploration Cruise - June 11, 2017

Ocean Exploration Cruise - June 11, 2017 from 8 am to 4 pm

Cetacean Sightings:
1 basking shark
4 - 5 Harbor porpoise
1 Humpback whale - Nile
3 - 4 Minke whales
1 Finback whale

Seabird Sightings: 
30 Common Eider (harbor)
1 White-winged Scoter
3 Manx Shearwater
15 Northern Gannet
13 Double-crested cormorant (harbor)
1 Glossy Ibis (harbor)
3 Black-bellied Plover
60 Herring Gull
20 Great Black-backed Gull
32 Rock Pigeon (harbor)
6 Chimney Swift (one at sea)
1 American crow
5 Barn swallow (harbor)
1 Common grackle (harbor)
2 American Goldfinch (harbor)
1 House sparrow

To read Thomas Robben's Trip Report, go to his website "Seabirds, Marine Surveys and Changing Ocean EcoSystems" by clicking HERE:

We left out of Gloucester, MA at 8 am with fair winds and clear skies. Our first destination was the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Yesterday, 7 Seas Whale Watch had picked up a small number of whales and seabirds in that area and we were hoping that these animals had stayed in the vicinity.

Basking shark just under the surface. 
When we approached the northwest corner, we picked up a basking shark that was filter feeding at the surface. Basking sharks are the second largest shark in the world and the largest shark that feeds in our cold New England waters each spring, summer, and fall. This animal had a very large dorsal fin which we can use to identify it in the future. As the boat slowly approached, the shark moved down port side of the boat and disappeared beneath the surface. We waited a few minutes for the animal to come back up, but realized that this shark was not about to return for a repeat performance.

Large, floppy dorsal fin of this basking shark. 
The New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance has a community-sighting network for basking sharks and ocean sunfish seen in our New England waters. If you see either of these large, pelagic species, please go to and report your sighting.

Report both live and dead animals to the sighting network. If the animal is live and doing well, go to our website at to report your sighting. If the animal is dead, we prefer that you call us at 508-566-0009 to alert us to the presence of the carcass on the beach.

Basking shark with dorsal fin just breaking the surface. 
       For live sighting: report the date, time, position (latitude and longitude) of the animal or animals. Indicate the number of animals in the sighting and document the behaviors. Take lots of photos and upload as many as you can on our website. You can email additional photos and video to NECWA via our work email which is

       For dead basking sharks or ocean sunfish: report the date, time, position (latitude and longitude) of the carcass and take lots of photos. Call our stranding and rescue number (508-566-0009) to alert us to the carcass as soon as you can. Often the tide will move a carcass and sometimes it will take the carcass back out to sea.

Juvenile Northern gannet. 
When we arrived on the northwest corner, we were not able to relocate the whales and seabirds that had been the day earlier, so decided to head south and work our way along the edges of Stellwagen Bank. As we headed south, we picked up a small group of harbor porpoise that were charging in the glare right off the bow. Harbor porpoise are the smallest of the toothed whales in our area and they are quite shy and therefore, often hard to get a good look at. About this time, we also started sighting seabirds, including Northern gannets, both adult and juveniles, but none appeared to be feeding at the surface.
Juvenile Northern gannet. 
As we kept heading south, NECWA staff member, Tammy Silva, spotted a blow at the southeast end of Stellwagen Bank. We thought we had a humpback or finback whale, but as we waited for the animal to return to the surface, we realized that we had been fooled by a minke whale.

Minke whale. 
Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales that feed off Cape Cod this time of the year. Typically they don't create a blow or spout and are therefore, difficult to spot at the surface. As we head position, we reapplied that we had 2 or 3 minkes whales that were surfacing at different times around the boat.
Nile and the white mark on her right dorsal fin.
Left dorsal fin of Nile. 
As we continued east, we picked up a larger blow and this time we realized that we had a humpback whale. As we watched this whale approach the boat, NECWA staff member Leah Horeanopolous shouted out in delight that this was Nile, her favorite whale. Nile has a hooked dorsal fin with a white mark on the right side. This makes identifying her quite easy, even from a distance.

Even though Nile's dorsal fin is so unique, it is the ventral or bottom surface of her flukes (tail) that provided the field mark for her name. On the left ventral surface of her flukes, you see a thick black line that splits as it descends down. This mark looks like the Nile River and this is how Nile got her name.
Field mark on left ventral tail surface that provided Nile her name. 
As we were watching Nile, a large finback whale surfaced right off our port bow and crossed over to the starboard side of the boat. Finback whales are the second largest of all the baleen whales and the largest that is often seen feeding in New England waters.

Finback whale!
Before we knew it, we had to turn around and head back to Gloucester. We were able to download the GPS trackless and add on the various cetacean or whale sightings we had over the course of the trip. Looking at the track log, we realized just how much water we had actually covered. That is the benefit of an all day trip for it provides us the time to travel far once we get offshore.

Track log for Ocean Exploration Cruise with cetacean sightings. 

We were able to collect plankton after we conducted a plankton tow on the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. NECWA staff members Leah, Starr Howell, and Tom Robben, along with NECWA interns Joe Bertherman and Neil Henry had fun conducting the tow.

Leah throwing the net over the side of the boat. 

The net just under the water. Perfect!
Leah and Joe!
Pulling the net back into the boat 
Leah and Starr having fun during the plankton tow!

NECWA interns were also involved with conducting a marine debris survey on the way offshore and on the way back to port. NECWA interns Brianna-Rose Lamb, Joe Bertherman, and Neil Henry did a great job of recording and photographing all the marine debris that was seen from the vessel.

Brianna recording data. 
Neil Henry scanning for marine debris.

My favorite part of any all day trip is being able to spend time with some fabulous folk. Here are some photos I was able to take over the course of the trip. Enjoy!