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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Right Whales Shut Down Cape Cod Canal

BUZZARDS BAY — A pair of North Atlantic right whales swimming in the Cape Cod Canal led Army Corps of Engineers officials to close the waterway for four hours Monday.
The endangered marine mammals were spotted in the canal shortly after 9 a.m., Dennis Arsenault, an Army Corps marine traffic controller, said Monday. Two government ships were sent out to keep tabs on the whales, which were last seen heading east in a strong current near the Sagamore Bridge, most likely exiting into Cape Cod Bay, Arsenault said. The canal was reopened at 1 p.m.
The right whales are considered endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Fewer than 500 remain in the world, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society communications manager Karen Urciuoli. The conservation society, which has offices in Plymouth, was not directly involved in the sighting.
"This is about the time we start to see right whales in Cape Cod Bay," Urciuoli said Monday. "In the past few years, there's been about one sighting in the canal a year. It's really fantastic for them to spot them and shut the canal, to restrict the traffic. One of the leading dangers to the North Atlantic right whale is ship strike."
Closing the canal when right whales are spotted is standard operating procedure because of the whales' scarce numbers. The canal is 14 miles long and typically sees about 20,000 ships pass through its waters each year.
Since Nov. 30, right whales have been seen in the bay by spotters for the conservation society, Urciuoli said. A handful of right whales were seen in mid-December off the coast of Provincetown, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
The majority of the western population of North Atlantic right whales spends winters calving in coastal waters off southeastern U.S. lands. The whales move north to New England, the Bay of Fundy and beyond for summer feeding and nursery grounds.
Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay are designated by the federal government as areas of "high use" for right whales and a primary habitat.
In December 2008, the Cape Cod Canal was closed for 2½ hours because one right whale swam east to west through the canal, exiting at Buzzards Bay.
Before that, the last one to traverse the canal was seven years previous, according to a Center for Coastal Studies spokesman.
Staff writer Steve Doane contributed to this report.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Survey Team Kicks Off Jan 3

The endangered North Atlantic right whale utilizes the Atlantic Coast off Georgia and Florida as calving grounds. Volunteer spotters, typically living in high rise condos beachside, report right whale sightings to track the whales' movement and behavior patterns along the Atlantic Coast in an effort to determine migration characteristics of these highly endangered marine mammals. This information is also shared with area boaters and alerts the shipping lanes in an effort to avoid further deaths of these right whales by collision. 

The 2012 survey year starts Tuesday, January 3rd. Reminder to all volunteers, both new and returning - the Survey Training Class will be held Monday, January 2nd from 2 to 4:30pm at the Center for Marine Studies, Whitney Lab at Marineland. 

Our Mission Statement:
- To be the eyes, ears and voice of the northern right whale in its only 
known calving ground off the Florida Atlantic coast.
- To cooperate with scientists and resource managers and report whale 
sightings to alert ships at sea in order to reduce ship collisions, the 
greatest known cause of death of northern right whales.
- To gather scientific data regarding right whale occurrence, movement 
patterns and behavioral characteristics in the southeast critical habitat.

Please add these phone numbers to your cell address book: 
> OR CALL THE HOTLINE 1-888-979-4253 / 1-888-97-WHALE

Reporting Strategy
For any sighting, be prepared with the following
􀀹 Date, time and location of the sighting
􀀹 Number of animals sighted
􀀹 Distinctive features and estimated length
of the animal
􀀹 How you can be contacted (i.e. contact
information for original report; how an
observer can be contacted)
􀀹 Signs of injury or entanglement
􀀹 Description of behavior, any injuries
and/or entangling gear
􀀹 If the whale is dead, the condition of the

For more information: Marineland Right Whale Blog