Following the North Atlantic right whale migration, my colleague Mary Trainor and I headed south to Jacksonville, Florida recently for the 6th Annual Right Whale Festival.
Starting in November many right whales begin to head south to their calving grounds off Georgia and Florida.
Not all of them make this annual trek but the most vulnerable part of the population, pregnant females and their soon to be born calves do.
As the whales head south they keep close to shore passing through every major port and shipping lane along the east coast from Bay of Fundy down to Jacksonville.
Traveling at slow speeds, spending lots of time at the surface makes these animals a huge target for passing vessels and, as a result ship strikes to right whales remains one of the leading causes of deaths.
But that is beginning to change…
Since the implementation of the 2008 ‘Ship Strike Rule’ requiring vessels of 65ft or larger to slow to speeds of 10 knots or less in key right whale habitat, there have been no known ship strikes to right whales within 40 nautical miles of these seasonal management areas. However, overall compliance with these regulations is still low and further outreach and education is needed to ensure this effective measure remains in place.
Enter the Whale Alert app – a situational awareness tool designed to aid mariners in safe and efficient navigation through these waters with pop-up alerts providing real-time information on whale presence and management areas.
But now the app not only provides information to the user but also allows you to help contribute to this effort as a citizen scientist reporting sightings of live, dead or distressed individuals to managers and responders!
You can help find and protect whales with the tap of a finger.
And that’s why Mary and I were following the migration of the whales – to spread the word about this new tool to those who sit closest to right whale critical habitat where mothers and their calves are most vulnerable during their early months together.
It was a cold weekend for an outdoor festival (even in Florida) but people came out in the 1000s and many left with a new app on their phones, fun stickers and whale tail temporary tattoos – as well as hopefully a new found sense of the threats these whales face and how they can help.
Rigorous survey effort by researchers can only cover a small portion of the waters off our shores and we can’t be out there at all times looking for the whales. We need your help to fill these gaps – be our extra eyes on the water – not just for right whales but all whales.
Download Whale Alert for free from the Apple store and begin reporting your sightings. Share it with your friends and encourage everyone to get involved.
With more data managers, researchers and non-profits like IFAW will be able to better understand habitat use and distribution of these whales and for time-sensitive cases of dead, injured, stranded or entangled animals quick reporting could make the difference in our ability to help save these individuals and gather critical information about what caused them harm.
From our headquarters on Cape Cod to Jacksonville and from sea to shining sea, your support will help make a difference for these whales.
Download Whale Alert for free from the Apple store and begin reporting your sightings.
Article source: IFAW