Southern California Cetacean Assessment Update

SR3’s Marine Mammal Research Director, Dr. Holly Fearnbach has had another successful few weeks of field efforts in the coastal waters of San Diego County. Using a small, unmanned hexacopter, Holly and her colleagues, Drs. John Durban and Dave Weller from NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) have now flown 32 flights over ~70 individual bottlenose dolphins, ~130 long-beaked common dolphins, 1 gray whale, 1 minke whale, and ~45 Pacific white-sided dolphins. They are collecting vertical images to estimate length and assess body condition and pregnancy rates of these coastal species. Aerial images of bottlenose dolphins will be matched to the long-term photo-identification catalog maintained by SWFSC, allowing measurements to be linked to individuals with known life histories and gray whale images will be included in the SWFSC/SR3 ongoing gray whale health assessment project.

Aerial images of a trio of Pacific white-sided dolphins (left), a group of bottlenose dolphins swimming in the shallow surf zone (top right), and three adult female bottlenose dolphins with their small calves (bottom right) . Images were collected in the coastal waters off San Diego County for photogrammetry measurements with an unmanned hexacopter at ~100ft altitude, with authorization under NMFS permit #19091.