2014 Florida Volunteer Updates

As the North Atlantic right whales migrate to the South Georgia/Northern Florida coast each winter volunteers help watch for and capture critical details related to this endangered species. This information helps scientists track the fate of the species and acts as a first alert system to pilots in the shipping lanes to avoid accidental killings. This blog shares the findings, photos and other pertinent information gathered from the Palm Coast Sector Volunteer Team while helping to connect and communicate the many ways we can protect the right whales and sustain our wonderful ocean life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prehistoric whales exposed in Chilean fossil bed

Sharing this article from artdaily.org that was posted on the Provincetown Center for 
Coastal Studies Facebook page. Enjoy!


A prehistoric whale fossil lays in the Atacama desert near Copiapo, Chile. 
More than 2 million years ago, scores of whales congregating off the Pacific 
Coast of South America mysteriously met their end. Maybe they became 
disoriented and beached themselves. Maybe they were trapped in a lagoon 
by a landslide or a ferocious storm. Maybe they died there over a period of 
a few millennia. But somehow, they ended up right next to one another, 
many just several yards (meters) apart, entombed over the ages as the 
shallow sea floor was driven upward by geologic forces and transformed 
into the driest place on the planet. Today, the whales have emerged again 
atop a desert hill more than half a mile (a kilometer) from the surf, where 
researchers have begun to unearth one of the world's best-preserved 
graveyards of prehistoric whales. AP Photo/Museo Paleontologico de Caldera.
SANTIAGO (AP).- Scientists from Chile and the Smithsonian Institution 
have been working to protect a huge collection of whale fossils found in the 
Atacama desert. 

Those involved in the project say about 80 whales have been preserved in 
sedimentary rock, and that many of the fossils are completely preserved, 
including a family group that appears to be a mother, father and baby whale. 

The area outside the town of Bahia Inglesa has long been called "Whale Hill" 
by locals, and was about to be paved over in a coastal highway expansion until 
paleontologist Mario Suarez persuaded his government to recover the bones first. 

The government now plans to build a new museum to house what appears 
to be an amazing collection. 
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Right Whale Festival 2011

It's time again to gear up for the Right Whale Watch season and what better way to kick it off than by attending the 3rd Annual Right Whale Festival on Saturday, November 19th! This annual celebration returns to the Seawalk Pavilion at Jacksonville Beach, FL and festivities kick off at 10am. You'll find live music, great food and a silent auction all for a great cause. As only about 350 right whales remain the festival is a fun way to share and learn how we can help lessen their human impact, learn more about their habitat and their conservation needs PLUS it's also a great time to celebrate the seasonal return of the Right Whales to our local waters. Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 4, 2011

NMFS Seeking Public Input & Information on New Rules to Help Save Whales From Entanglements

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is holding 15 public scoping meetings during July and August providing an opportunity for the public to get involved in the development of conservation measures intended to reduce the risk of serious injury and mortality of large whales due to entanglements in vertical lines. These public meetings will assist NMFS obtain information on the range of impacts that should be considered for the various options identified to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of right, humpback and finback whales incidentally taken in commercial trap/pot and gillnet fisheries.  

The meetings begin July 11 in Maine and end on August 24 in Georgia. The schedule below lists meeting dates & locations. Please encourage all in your area to attend. For more information go to www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp and http://www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp/VerticalLineScoping/

credits: RIGHT WHALE NEWS, Volume 19.2, Page 10

Schedule of scoping meetings:
July 11th from 6-9pm
East Machias, ME
Washington Academy
66 High Street
July 12th from 6-9pm
Ellsworth, ME
Ellsworth City Hall Auditorium
1 City Hall Plaza
July 13th from 6-9pm
Rockland, ME
Rockland District High School Auditorium
400 Broadway
July 14th from 6-9pm
Portland, ME
Portland City Hall
State of Maine Room
389 Congress Street
July 18th from 5:30- 8:30pm
Providence, RI
Providence Public Library
150 Empire Street
July 19th from 6-9pm
Plymouth, MA
Plymouth Public Library
Otto Fehlow Room
132 South Street
July 20th from 6-9pm
Chatham, MA
Chatham Community Center
Large Meeting Room
702 Main Street
July 21st from 6-9pm
Gloucester, MA
NMFS Regional Office
Hearing Rooms A&B
55 Great Republic Drive
July 26th from 6-9pm
Morehead City, NC
NCDMF District Office
5285 Highway 70 West
July 27th from 6-9pm
Virginia Beach, VA
Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library
Folio Meeting Room
4100 Virginia Beach Blvd.
July 28th from 6-9pm
Ocean View, DE
Ocean View Town Hall
32 West Ave.
July 29th from 6-9pm
Manahawkin, NJ
Stafford Township Municipal Building
Council Meeting Room
260 Bay Avenue
August 22nd from 5-8pm
Cape Canaveral, FL
Cape Canaveral Public Library
201 Polk Avenue
August 23rd from 6-9 pm
Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville Port Authority
Board Room
2831 Talleyrand Avenue
August 24th from 6-9pm
Garden City, GA
Garden City City Hall
100 Central Avenue

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Once In A Lifetime: 100 Right Whales Celebrate Earth Day Together, 201 Counted in 1 Week in Cape Cod Waters

While our whale watching friends in the North continue to patiently await spring during the extended cold winds, days of steady rains and the occasional snow flurry (yes even reported this morning) they were blessed during a recent aerial survey flight conducted by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies to sight more than 100 right whales at one time feeding on rich patches of zooplankton off the shores of Provincetown on Cape Cod - an all time single day record! Better yet, the Right Whale Conservation Program run jointly with the state Division of Marine Fisheries has documented 201 individual right whales in the Cape Cod waters over the past week - that's about half of the total right whale population. AMAZING! Especially after we experienced so many weeks of no sightings at the tail (sic) end of our winter watching season here in Florida leaving us to wonder why and if they were alright, whether their numbers were diminishing more quickly than anticipated and some even considered if they were able to detect the impending earthquakes and tsunami and went to an unknown but safe harbor.  However we are now able to celebrate that they were able to find their way home and in good stead. Such wonderful news. While I ponder the way these whales so quickly called out to each other with a, "hurry, there's yummy caviar plankton off Provincetown!" here are a few news clippings and a video to help convey the recent activity. Enjoy! 

PROVINCETOWN, Mass., April 22 (UPI) -- Whale experts in Massachusetts said a record number of North Atlantic right whales are congregating near the beaches of Provincetown and Truro. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, senior scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, said researchers believe more than 200 right whales -- nearly half of the known population of the critically endangered species -- have gathered between a few yards from the shore and about a half mile out into the water, The Boston Globe reported Thursday.
Mayo said the whales are drawn to the area by zooplankton, a food course for the aquatic mammals, and the zooplankton is especially prevalent this year, which may explain the large number of whales. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries issued a warning to boaters telling them it is illegal to bring their vessels within 500 feet of the animals.

Boston (CNN) -- What scientists say is the largest concentration of endangered right whales ever spotted in one location is giving researchers an unusually rich opportunity to study the animals and their feeding habits. But the gathering, an annual affair in the chilly spring waters off Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, also raises the threat of boats striking the 70-ton mammals, according to the state Division of Marine Fisheries. The agency has posted an advisory to boaters urging them to be on the lookout for the whales and steer clear. Scientists believe that there are only 450 right whales in the world but say the numbers have been slowly recovering since commercial whaling of the species was banned more than 70 years ago. The more than 100 whales counted in the bay this month is the largest number recorded in one place, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts. "We're looking at an exceedingly rare animal in unusual numbers in one of their last critical habitats," Charles Mayo, a scientist at the center who studies right whales, said Friday. Why so many in one place? In a word, food, said Mayo. One way or another, the whales caught wind of a unusually rich repast of plankton available in the waters of the bay and arrived to take advantage of the easy dining, Mayo said. The plankton bloom often occurs, but it's been particularly rich and long-lasting this year for unknown reasons, he said. There have been no boat strikes on the many whales contained in the bay's waters, said Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Marine Fisheries Division. In fact, the last known fatal strike on a whale in the area happened in 1999, he said. State and federal law makes it a crime to close within 500 yards of a right whale, according to the state Marine Fisheries Division. Seeing so many right whales in the same place is encouraging for researchers, even though they are well aware that the species is on the road to recovery after dipping in the early 1900s to as few as a handful of breeding females and male suitors. It's also a spectacle for the public, Mayo said. The whales feed on the surface and can be seen from shore, he said. "Anytime you see a whale from the beach that's actually alive, it's pretty exciting," he said. The whales should begin trickling out of the bay sometime in the next few days heading for deeper waters offshore, Mayo said.

The Boston Globe

Endangered whales gathering off Cape Cod in record numbers

By Vivian Ho
Globe Correspondent / April 21, 2011
Whale watchers won’t even have to leave land to see a spectacular sight. A record number of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales have gathered close off the beaches of Provincetown and Truro and is expected to stay there for at least another week, said Charles “Stormy’’ Mayo, senior scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown. Researchers counted more than 100 whales during an aerial survey Tuesday, with a preliminary count of more than 200 total, a little less than half of the known population. At some points the whales can be seen just a few yards offshore, to a quarter-mile out. The whales are drawn to the area this time of year by the stores of zooplankton. Mayo said he thinks there are a large number of the whales there now because the area is particularly rich in zooplankton this year. “We don’t understand that particularly well, but it’s clearly a combination of oceanographic processes and a lot of marine biology,’’ he said. “There are currents that bring the plankton into the area and local currents that cause them to concentrate, and it’s probably an overlapping of a lot of physical processes.Right now, the situation is good for that, just as when you grow plants in your backyard. Some years, there are better situations than others.’’ North Atlantic right whales can weigh up to 90 tons and sport raised, roughened areas on their heads and snouts that make each mammal distinctive, said Mayo. They live largely in the Gulf of Maine, from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia. Mayo said the center had been spotting the whales in the area since February, but began seeing large numbers around two weeks ago. They appear to be concentrating around Race Point, but also can been seen down to Long Point in Provincetown and inside to Truro. They now number so many that the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has issued a warning for boaters to steer clear of the animals. Because North Atlantic right whales are endangered — only 450 to 500 exist worldwide — federal law prevents any vessels, other than ones holding research permits, from getting within 500 yards of the creatures. “The loss of one breeding female could be detrimental to the recovery of the species,’’ said Tanya Grady, a spokeswoman for the Center of Coastal Studies. “They really are teetering on the brink of extinction.’’ Mayo said anyone wanting to see the whales can do so just by walking on the beaches. “We’re used to seeing right whales,’’ Mayo said. “But even though we do a lot of research on them, it’s a thrilling time. It is a very special occasion being around such an extraordinarily rare animal. The coastal waters off of Massachusetts is providing a home for one of the rarest creatures on earth, and it’s very exciting.’’

Cape Cod Times Online
PROVINCETOWN – Record numbers of right whales have been seen in Cape Cod Bay and adjacent waters this week, including sightings from some Truro beaches and the beaches at Herring Cove and Race Point in Provincetown. The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies reported today that the Right Whale Conservation Program run jointly by Cape group and the state Division of Marine Fisheries had documented 201 individual right whales in Cape Cod waters over the past week. More than 100 right whales were seen today during on seven-hour research flight. With a population of about 500 animals, right whales are the most endangered large whale in the North Atlantic.The state has issued a high-risk advisory to boaters to use caution in Cape waters to avoid hitting the whales, which spend long periods feeding and relaxing near the surface.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

No Whales on My Watch but [Ocean] Life is Good

While I didn't spot any whales it wasn't just another day at the beach. I don't think any of us, while spending our whale watch duty by her side noting the weather, the bird and dolphin patterns as well as the wind and tides, take her majestic beauty and the abundance of life dependent on her for granted. I was thinking this while scanning the waters from the Granada Estates walkover because my instincts were telling me I wouldn't see a whale today - at least not here. With the red fishing boat unusually close to shore (possibly due to engine trouble?) and a number of others just beyond the whales were likely further out or further South I thought. So I packed up just after 10am and moved down to Clicker Beach. 

The wind kicked up a notch making the feels-like temperature drop and now I could see the diving birds that were missing from their typical earlier arrival. They were farther out than usual and as I kept scanning I was quickly mesmerized at the number of birds I was witnessing - it seemed beyond comprehension. A streak as long as I could see filled the sky and splashes were peppering the surface of the water. I tried in vain to capture this event on video but they were just too far out. I imagined a large school of something really yummy was jetting beneath the surface and making for easy prey. 

Then I caught the alert that a whale had been spotted south of Flagler Pier and about 2 miles out (hmmm gotta trust those instincts don't you think?!) and thus too far to get photos. Anyway, soon after I was engulfed in fog and almost zero visibility and thus my watch was over. And thank goodness - I was suddenly freezing! 

P.S. Here are a few photos from my watch and a video link of a red shouldered hawk I met up with just south of Marineland today to cheer you. Watch on!

And if you like this Red Shouldered Hawk check out the video I captured of him here: Hawk's Business Video on You Tube

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Team of Two Spots Two at Ten

Molly Carey and Tracy Martin were on watch duty today and at 10 am they both spotted two whales to the North of their watch location just south of Jungle Hut Road. Below Tracy shares her account of their experience - watch on! cs
The mother PICO has been provisionally identified as 3270 with her first calf.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011
At 10am I went to the Granada Estates walkover to get the whale bag from Molly. Molly began watch from her home and called to ask me to meet her there because she thought there might be whales nearby as she noticed a group of people at the Jungle Hut walkover looking North. No sooner than I arrived at the walkover when we both spotted two whales at the exact same time!

We both spotted the mother and calf right whales by their classic floating black "tabletop" appearance that just broke the surface of the water. While the whales stayed in the general area during the next two hours of our watch they weren't very active. However we did see the calf separate briefly from the mom and then rejoin her. There were fishing boats to either side of them and sometimes at very close range which made us wonder if this was what kept the whales under for longer periods of time.

I was so happy to be able to spot the entire length of the whales and to see their callosities very clearly. It was a good day for a sighting!

Tracy Martin

Not to take away from the whale sighting we had today in our area, here's a link to the story on a young female right whale that was found to be in trouble down near Cocoa Beach and then saved using a new procedure. Whale Sedated then Disentangled off Cape Canaveral

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pilot Whales Beached on Marineland, FL Shores

While survival in the wilds of the ocean is at best difficult these days, bearing witness to the demise of two Pilot Whales that beached near Marineland yesterday begged the question why.  And it seemed a bit fortuitous that the whales happened to beach here on the front steps of the Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Conservation Field Station (DCFS for short) as these are the very people researching what causes whales and dolphins to beach and the ones called upon to help when whales or dolphins beach on the shores of Flagler County.  

Watching these people in action yesterday I immediately knew this is what they live for (even though in most cases the stranded mammals rarely make it) and proved over the next four hours to be a compassionate and organized team of professionals.
The first DCFS staffers to arrive jumped into the water and helped the whales stay upright.  The rest of the team was already in full alert mode with trucks rigged for such disasters on their way as was the local marineland veterinarian. In those short ten to fifteen minutes of waiting the wind kicked up a notch making the "feels like" temperature somewhere in the 40's - not so great for those in the water not dressed for the occasion. 

Once assembled the team worked like a well oiled swat team and concurrently took care of the whales as well as members of the team. Wind jackets were handed out, wet suits were donned and dry towels shared while health stats like breaths and heart beats per minute were being shouted to the shore team taking copious notes. 
George Biedenbach, Director, Conservation Programs at DCFS instructs the team 
on how to prepare the whale for taking blood samples.

Then the team collectively gathered to prepare the whale for the vet to get blood samples. Typically it is disease that makes the whales beach and the results of the blood tests, usually known the next day, will help determine what caused these whales to become ill. Again, one of the main programs the DCFS is researching.
Eric Searcy, Veterinarian for the DCFS takes blood samples while the team coordinates 
and communicates the state of the whale's vital signs.

Other volunteers were involved including a local sheriff and a few from the Marineland right whale watch volunteer program and Marineland. While it wasn't a happy ending for the whales hopefully whatever is learned from this beaching by the DCFS team will help other mammals. 

As if the beaching location wasn't enough of a coincidence I learned today that the last time pilot whales beached in Flagler County they did so almost in the exact same spot and almost on the very same day some thirteen years ago..today ( January 14, 1998). Coincidence? Or do they somehow know this is where they will be best cared for. Watch on! cs

LINK TO VIDEOS OF THE BEACHED WHALES (or paste this address into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/user/yellowfishcafe



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Kicks Off With Big Blows!

We were blessed with a spectacular show by a number of Right Whales passing through our sector this morning and into the afternoon. Their unique V-shaped blows were prominent as well a lot of breaching. With many rising up and splashing down onto their backs at first I thought they were humpbacks but the team confirmed they were all Right Whales that included many mothers and calves. a An email was sent out to all in Hammock Dunes which brought many out into the chilly winds to view these amazing creatures.  Certainly a day to remember!

I was able to capture some of the fun times the whales were having on video.  I'm still learning how best to post videos on blogger (the quality looks great on my mac but when I upload it seems a bit blurry/fuzzy plus it's really small) so please click here to go to my YELLOWFISH YOU TUBE CHANNEL for best viewing. Watch on!

P.S. As of 3:30pm there are still a few whales right out in front jumping, rolling and having a fabulous time of it! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Finally Spotted One on My Watch! by Stephanie Susetka

At 9:10am on Weds the Hammock Dunes team became the first of the season to call in a whale sighting!

My first day of my fifth year of whale watching and what do you know - I finally spotted one on my shift!! There were several dolphins jumping and diving together and heading south.  Out of curiosity, I followed them for about 5 minutes and then saw a big black blob surface among them.  I wasn’t really sure, at first, if it was a whale, so I waited and watched for a few minutes before calling Sheila at Marineland.  The first question she had was whether I saw the callosities.  It was a pretty dull day and they didn’t really show up well, plus the whale was probably about ¼ mile away.  The binoculars are good, but my eyes may not be!!  Anyway, Sheila and Jim came down to the San Gabriel walkover for a look.  

By this time, the whale was further south surfacing every 7 or 8 minutes.  We headed for Clicker Beach.   She was still a ways off shore, but from there we could see the callosities, an unusual pattern around the mouth.   We also saw the signature “V” shape blow of the Right Whale.  Sheila and Jim also thought there might be two whales (mother/calf?) and called it in to Marineland for a possible flyover.  While at Clicker Beach, Sheila received a call from Team 3 at Varn Park that they had also spotted the whale (s).  

We all headed to Varn Park where two whales were confirmed.  The whales were now frolicking a bit and showing the tail and more of their body.  The dolphins were still in pursuit and helped identify the whales’ location when they were underwater.   Since the whales were still heading south, we all followed them to Beverly Beach.  At this point they were quite a ways from shore, maybe ½ a mile so after about 20 minutes of watching the same patterns, we decided that was enough excitement for the day!

-Stephanie Susetka

Photos courtesy Marineland Right Whale Project - Celebrating 11 years of Citizen science and stewardship.