Developing a biocompatible large whale tracking tag

Michael Moore,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


The aim of this project is to develop a reliable, remotely-delivered satellite tag for use on large whales. We aim to develop a tag that will remain working on a whale for months while having very minor impact on the whale's health, and at the same time, remain relatively cheap. To date no-one has tried applying current human implant bio-engineering technologies, that use materials that regulate tissue regeneration and repair, to maximize the stability of a whale tag implant, and hence minimize the risk of rejection. This project aims to achieve this by pulling together a team of large whale tagging specialists, a bioengineering specialist, a veterinary scientist and large whale ecologists. We intend to develop a new and better tag using human implant bio- engineering tools, and then monitor their performance on individually-identified humpback whales. This fits under the ASTWG Theme 4: Broad-scale movements of living marine resources. The project involves the development and implementation of a highly innovative technology. Further, our proposed technology is optimized for value, cost and risk; is beneficial to multiple regions and we have the involvement of staff from three separate sciences from both coasts. The tags that we shall develop also have high potential for application and rapid integration with survey operations supporting assessments. Through this project we intend to make a substantial advance in the field of satellite telemetry for large whales. This will improve our capacity identify whales' key habitats, allowing species-specific, spatially explicit management actions to be more effective.