Right Whale Cow/Calf
New England Aquarium
Early Warning System
Surveys For Right Whales


(Page sponsored and maintained by WhaleNet)

Reports - Southeast/NEA Early Warning System 1997-1998

Data Table - Southeast/NEA EWS Sightings 1997-1998

Past Sighting Data - 2001-2002 /2000-2001 / 1999-2000 / 1998-1999/ 1997-1998 / 1996-1997
Map - Sighting Map of Right Whale Sightings 1997-1998

Research Logs - Biopsy Program Information

Background and logs (follow along with the research team)
Right Whale Research Logs

(EWS Maps & Data below)


As part of its right whale research program, the New England Aquarium has been flying aerial surveys off the coast of the southeastern U.S. since 1984. Over the years it has become apparent that the survival of this species is inextricably connected to this coastline, especially the near shore waters between Brunswick, GA and St. Augustine, FL. In these waters the few whales born into this population each year will spend their first weeks alongside their mothers, nursing and discovering the world. A world filled with strange sights and sounds-- the clicks and whistles of bottlenose dolphins, strange shapes of curious fish coming and going and the sometimes not too distant drone of a ship plying its trade. What has for centuries been a place where female right whales seek shelter for the birthing process remains relatively sheltered, shallow and temperate-- a place where right whale cows can feel safe from the elements and the rare predatory orca of deeper waters. While orcas are few and far between along the east coast, other threats have moved onto the continental shelf.

Collisions with large vessels kill more right whales than any other documented cause of mortality. These animals are slow moving, particularly when accompanied by a calf. They can be very difficult to see with only the flat off their back visible at the surface. Right whales have not evolved defenses against the fast, giant hulls with which they share the sea and donÕt always detect and react to approaching vessels. These factors, and the intensification of shipping and military traffic in the southeast, make right whales increasingly vulnerable to collisions with ships.

There are three major entrance channels which transect the high-use area of the calving ground. These approaches serve three commercial shipping ports and two military bases. The channel at the north end of this area serves the port of Brunswick, Georgia, home to a car importation facility. To the south, centered in the area at the GA/FL border, is the St. Mary's entrance channel, which runs 14 nautical miles (NM) offshore and serves the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, as well as the port of Fernandina Beach, Florida. Kings Bay is home to the "Trident" nuclear subs which carry inter-continental ballistic missiles. Fernandina is the site of a containerized cargo facility. The St. Johns River entrance is the southernmost channel in the area and serves the port of Jacksonville, Florida and the Mayport Naval Base. This is by far the busiest channel in the area with all forms of large vessel traffic, including container ships, car carriers, tankers, bulk freighters, as well as missile frigates, destroyers and other warships.

Further increasing vessel traffic in the calving ground is the frequent dredging required to keep these channels passable for ships. Sea-going hopper dredges remove material from the channels and deposit it at offshore disposal sites. Much of this work is performed during the right whale calving season to avoid killing endangered sea turtles which frequent the channels in the summer. These vessels work continuously, 24 hours a day, and carry marine mammal observers on board to identify whales.

The imperatives of international commerce and national defense guarantee a steady stream of traffic through the calving ground. To address this hazard to right whales, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the Navy, and the National Marine Fisheries Service have funded Early Warning System aerial surveys. We fly these surveys daily, weather permitting, December through March, covering over 1000 square miles of ocean encompassing the above mentioned shipping channels. The survey team is comprised of two observers, a data recorder and a pilot. We fly a grid pattern 750' over the water searching for right whales and documenting the presence of other marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks, rays and vessel traffic. Right whale locations are radioed to commercial and military ship traffic controllers and is relayed to the vessels in the area so that course and speed changes may be made, as needed to avoid whales.
Chris Slay

MAP: Maps to download and use to plot the fixes

Color Map
Black and White Map (blank for your use)

Florida/Georgia - Right Whale Early Warning System Reports

NOAA Marine Sanctuaries and Right Whale Links

NOAA Marine Sanctuaries

NOAA/NMFS Northern Right Whale Sighting Information
1997/1998/1999 Right Whale Alerts

Right Whale Reports

Tools and Links:

Education Activity that relates to this data.

The Beaufort Scale /Sea State Scale(Northern Illinois University)
Whale Species Identification Chart :Allied Whale/College of the Atlantic
Specimen Images Listed by Phylum (images)
Marine Mammal Classifications and descriptions by species
Map Generator
Distance generator from any two points
Tide Generator and Current Predictor
Maps to chart data:

Color Map
Black and White Map

Sites with Information on Right Whales:
The habits of whales - Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Protected species -National Marine Fisheries Service Cetaceans Page
National Marine Fisheries ServiceRecovery Plan for the Northern Right Whale
National Marine Fisheries Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester, MA
Northeast Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, MA

This page is maintained by WhaleNet.

The Southeast Right Whale Early Warning System operates in conjunction with the Right Whale Conservation Program at the New England Aquarium, Boston, Massachusetts.


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