Dr. Fearnbach's last update from Piedras Blancas lighthouse

SR3’s Dr. Holly Fearnbach and colleagues from NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA/SWFSC) successfully finished their 3rd annual aerial health assessment of gray whales off Piedras Blancas lighthouse in central California. Using an unmanned octocopter, the team flew a total of 56 flights over 57 gray female/calf pairs, 11 juvenile gray whales, one group of Risso’s dolphins and three groups of bottlenose dolphins. The body condition and sizes of gray whales photographed this year will be compared between years to identify changes in condition. Now Holly is off to San Juan Island with colleagues Drs. John Durban (NOAA/SWFSC) and Lance Barrett-Lennard (Vancouver Aquarium) for a month-long aerial health assessment of the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales. More updates to come!

Left: Image showing Holly retrieving the octocopter after flight operations at Piedras Blancas. Right: Overhead image of a gray whale female and her calf migrating north past Point Piedras Blancas, CA. Photo taken from an unmanned octocopter ~160ft above the whales, with flights over whales authorized by NMFS permit #19091.

Left: Image showing Holly retrieving the octocopter after flight operations at Piedras Blancas. Right: Overhead image of a gray whale female and her calf migrating north past Point Piedras Blancas, CA. Photo taken from an unmanned octocopter ~160ft above the whales, with flights over whales authorized by NMFS permit #19091.