The North Atlantic Right Whale-‘tis the season for birth in Northeast Florida off the coast of St. Augustine, FL.
On 11/10/09 at the Scenic & Historic A1A Corridor Management Council meeting at the St. Augustine Library, Joy Hampp with the Marineland Right Whale Project gave an insightful presentation on the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.
As a Right Whale volunteer in years past and having reported spotting Right Whales in St. Augustine and Vilano Beach, I enjoyed her presentation. The Marineland Right Whale Project works along the coastline from the St. Augustine to Ponce Inlets - a distance of about 50 nautical miles. The project began in 2001 and includes about 200 volunteers.
Joy shared many interesting facts:
How big are Right Whales?
Adults: 45-55 ft.
Calves: 15 ft at birth!
Population: originally there were 50,000 to 100,000.
In 1935 less than 100 were left
Today it is estimated that there are 350-400
The calving season to see Right Whales in the St. Augustine area:
Mid December to end of March
North Atlantic Right Whales come to our area (northeast Florida) to calf and nurse. This is the only place in the U.S. where this occurs. Only 1/3 of the population comes to our area---predominantly adult females. Some calves and some males come as well.
Please stay at least 500 yards from any whale.
Why are they called Right Whales? They are called right whales because whalers found the whales to be the "right" whales to hunt. Whalers liked catching right whales because they are big, slow, and float when they are killed. Right whales were heavily whaled for many years. Commercial hunting stopped in 1935 after an incident in St. Augustine, FL. They are an endangered species.
3 main ways to identify a Right Whale:
1) Callosities - white spots on head
2) No dorsal fin
3) V-shaped blow
The callosities form a unique pattern on every right whale. There are like a fingerprint and are used to help identify each whale.
A plane is flown every day over our section of ocean during the season to spot Right Whales and to notify vessels in the area of their location. Joy Hampp is one of the pilots. Joy reported that there is a new federal law requiring ships over 65' to travel at less than 10 kts/hour from November 15- April 15 in the North Atlantic Right Whale Critical Habitat & Calving Ground (the area in Georgia and northeast Florida). Here's the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.
If you see at Right Whale, please call
1-888-979-4253 and have the following information handy:
- Location of whale(s)
- Number of whales; any calves?
- Direction whale(s) are traveling
- Dolphins present?
- Your name and a callback number.
If you have any questions or would like to volunteer you can reach Joy Hampp at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joy Hampp, Project Coordinator
Marineland Right Whale Project
GTM-NERR Science Center
9741 Ocean Shore Blvd.
Marineland, FL 32080-8613