North Atlantic Right Whales of the Florida - Georgia Coast
North Atlantic Right Whales of the Florida - Georgia Coast
North Atlantic Right Whale
A rare North Atlantic Right Whale surfaces in a sea
of spray. The magnificent mammals spawn each
winter off the coast of Georgia and Florida.
Photo: NOAA
Coast of the Right Whale
The whales return each year
to spawn off a small section
of ocean along the Florida-
Georgia coast to spawn.
Whales Swimming in Air
Life-sized models of sea life
swim through the air at the
Guana Tolamato Matanzas
National Estuarine Preserve.
A Whale and her Calf
A female North Atlantic Right
Whale and her calf as seen
off the Florida coast.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission/NOAA
North Atlantic Right Whales of Georgia & Florida
Among the Rarest in the World
Copyright 2011 & 2913 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: November 1
5, 2013
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Public Help to Save Whales
An sign on the beach near
Ponte Vedra, Florida provides
information citizens can use
to help identify and help North
Atlantic Right Whales that
might turn up injured or sick.
The North Atlantic Right Whale, one of the
most endangered marine mammals on the
planet, returns each winter to spawning
grounds off the Atlantic coast of Florida and
Georgia in a desperate fight for survival of the
species.

For thousands of years the whales have
migrated down from the waters off Greenland
and Newfoundland each year to give birth to
their young. They were once such a common
sight along the Southern coastline that St.
Simons Sound in Georgia was called the
"Bay of Whales" by early settlers and
explorers. In fact, early Indians marveled at
the majesty of the creatures, as did the first
settlers from Spain, England and France.

North Atlantic Right Whales are remarkable
for their size. Adults reach average lengths of
50 feet and can weigh as much as 140,000
pounds. They received their name because
they were the "right whale" when it came to
producing whale oil, a highly valuable
commodity during the 1700s and 1800s.

As a result, they were hunted almost to
extinction. The price for whale oil soared in
the 1800s when it was a major source of
fuel. Over hunting resulted and the whales
almost disappeared from the face of the
earth.

The development of electricity and refineries
for petroleum products ended the nation's
dependence on whales as a source of oil,
but by that point the North Atlantic Right
Whale population had been so decimated
that very few still existed. Even today they
remain one of the most endangered species
on the planet.

The whales have been protected in one form
or another since 1931, but because the
population had reached such a low number,
it has had difficulty recovering. It is currently
estimated that only 300-400 remain alive.

Their greatest threats today are injuries
sustained from collisions with ships or when
they become accidentally entrapped in
fishing nets. To help lower the possibility of
such injuries, there is a general conservation
effort involving marine biologists, shipping
company leaders and fishermen. For
example, ships travel in and out of ports at
slower speeds during the seasons when the
whales are most likely to be present.

Such efforts are having results. Although the
whales remain seriously endangered, the
number of calves born each year is on the
rise. From 1980-2000, there were only 11 of
the whales born each year. Since 2001,
however, the number has increased to an
average of 24 each year. In 2008-2009, the
number surged to 39.

Despite such improvements in the birth rate
of the whale, there are still fewer than 100
breeding females in the population.
To protect the winter spawning grounds of
the North Atlantic Right Whale, a critical
conservation area has been established off
the coast of Florida and Georgia. From just
off St. Simons Island, the area stretches
south to just past Cape Canaveral.

The whales arrive in the area in December of
each year and the calves are born from then
through March. For one year after that, the
calves travel with their mother until they are
weaned as the southern migration begins
anew.

Please click here to see a short piece of
outstanding video of a North Atlantic Right
Whale.

Among the attractions on
St. Simons Island
in Georgia is a beautiful sculpture of a right
whale surfacing. It can be seen along the
waterfront between the lighthouse and the
pier.

An especially great place to learn about the
whales is at the Environmental Education
Center of the Guana Tolamato Matanzas
National Estuarine Research Reserve off
A1A eight miles north of
St. Augustine and 17
miles south of Jacksonville Beach.

The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Please click here for more information.
The Florida-Georgia Coast