Please select your home edition
Edition
Cruise Village 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Watching for right whales more important than ever

by NOAA Fisheries 25 Nov 2018 12:49 UTC
North Atlantic right whale mother and calf, sighted June 6, 2014 during an aerial survey. © NOAA Fisheries / Christin Khan

North Atlantic right whales are on the move along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. With an unprecedented 20 right whale deaths documented in 2017 and 2018, NOAA is cautioning boaters to give these endangered whales plenty of room as they migrate south.

The agency is also asking commercial fishermen to be vigilant when maneuvering to avoid accidental collisions with whales, remove unused gear from the ocean to help avoid entanglements, and use vertical lines with required markings, weak links and breaking strengths.

North Atlantic right whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Scientists estimate there are just over 400 remaining, making them one of the rarest marine mammals in the world.

"We are very concerned about the future of North Atlantic right whales," said Barb Zoodsma, right whale biologist for NOAA Fisheries. "We lost 20 right whales in U.S. and Canadian waters since 2017 during an Unusual Mortality Event. The number of right whale deaths is troubling for a population of a little more than 400 animals, particularly because we estimate that there are only about 100 breeding females who are producing fewer calves each year."

NOAA Fisheries, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard are reminding boaters, anglers and coastal residents that North Atlantic right whale calving season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April and that mariners should stay alert and keep their distance.

Every winter, many right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida's east coast.

"These southern waters are where right whales give birth and nurse their young, making it extremely important for people to be aware of the whales' movement and migratory patterns," said Tom Pitchford, wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Any disturbance could affect behaviors critical to the health and survival of the species. Please stay alert while in right whale habitat and immediately report any sightings to the hotline number (877) WHALE-HELP (or 877-942-5343)."

Entanglement in fixed commercial fishing gear is a major threat to right whales. There are restrictions on where and how commercial traps, pot gear and gillnet gear can be set. These restrictions include seasonal closures and gear modifications such as sinking groundlines, weak links and gear markings.

To reduce the risk of harassment or collisions between right whales and boats, federal law requires vessels and aircraft to stay at least 500 yards away from right whales. Vessels 65 feet and longer are also required to slow to speeds of 10 knots or less in Seasonal Management Areas along the East Coast, including the calving and nursery area.

"Right whales often swim and rest just below the surface, and are invisible to approaching boats and ships," said wildlife biologist Clay George of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "It's important for ship operators to follow vessel speed rules, and for boaters to slow down whenever possible."

U.S. Speed restrictions are in place in various areas along the mid-Atlantic Nov. 1-April 30 and in the southeast U.S. calving area Nov. 15-April 15. View more information on seasonal ship speed restrictions.

While the federal Ship Strike Reduction Rule does not regulate vessels under 65 feet, collisions with smaller vessels have occurred, resulting in injury to whales and expensive damage to boats.

NOAA and its partners conduct aerial and vessel surveys off the coast of Florida and Georgia throughout the calving season. These surveys monitor the seasonal presence of right whales and their habitat use, mitigate vessel-whale collisions, assess calving rates, and detect dead, injured and entangled whales. When observed, NOAA and its partners also respond to disentangle animals and investigate injuries and mortalities.

To report right whale sightings, especially dead, injured, or entangled whales, please contact NOAA Fisheries at (877) WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343) or the Coast Guard on marine VHF channel 16. The public can also identify and help marine mammals in trouble by using their smartphone. Learn more about the Whale 911 app.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

Related Articles

NOAA Fisheries proposes critical habitat for seals
Agency invites public comment and input on proposals in U.S. Arctic NOAA Fisheries is proposing to designate critical habitat in U.S. waters off the coast of Alaska for Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia distinct population of bearded seals. Both species are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Posted on 18 Jan
Memorable marine stories, videos & photos of 2020
Sharks, whales, turtles, and much more! As we wrap up 2020, check out the most memorable marine features, videos, and photos of the year. Posted on 25 Dec 2020
Marine heatwaves build reservoir of toxic algae
Ocean "crock pots" fuel harmful algal blooms that threaten valuable shellfish fisheries Repeated marine heatwaves off the U.S. West Coast starting about 2013 fueled record harmful algal blooms that seeded a region off Northern California and Southern Oregon with toxic algae, a new study has found. Posted on 19 Dec 2020
Aleutian passes larger than previously thought
Fresh water from the North Pacific and Gulf of Alaska moves into Bering Sea through Aleutian passes There are thousands of small islands that comprise Alaska's Aleutian Island chain, but only a few dozen significant passes among those islands. Posted on 18 Dec 2020
New tool to explore offshore wind on fisheries
Allowing anyone to access information about the effects of proposed offshore wind projects In a busy ocean, finding the right spot for offshore wind farms isn't easy. There are a lot of factors to consider besides the windiest spots. Posted on 16 Dec 2020
Marine heatwaves dominate Northeast Pacific
Researchers question whether heatwaves are becoming more common than not. During the summer of 2020, an area of unusually warm ocean water—a marine heatwave—grew off the West Coast of the United States. It became the second most expansive Northeast Pacific heatwave since monitoring began in 1982. Posted on 13 Dec 2020
BOEM harnessing citizen science with new app
A new mobile data collection app for marine megafauna sightings The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announces the release of Ocean Alert, a new mobile data collection app for marine megafauna sightings. Posted on 7 Dec 2020
U.S. coral reef health assessed on a national scal
National Coral Reef Monitoring Program a strategic framework for conducting sustained observations NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) supports the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) throughout the U.S. Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coral reef areas. Posted on 6 Dec 2020
NFWF announces $500,000 in new support
Investments will reduce entanglement risks for imperiled marine wildlife The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced nearly $500,000 in investments to reduce threats to North Atlantic right whales and other marine life off the coast of New England. Posted on 21 Nov 2020
Seafood Bycatch donation relieves hunger
A cooperative Alaska program takes an innovative approach to global problem of unwanted fish catch Fishermen sometimes unintentionally catch fish they do not want or cannot keep. This is called bycatch. While these fish are returned to the sea, many of them do not survive. Posted on 8 Nov 2020
North Sails 2019 - NSVictoryList - FooterHighfield Boats - Sailing - FOOTERCruise Village 2020 - FOOTER