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North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation

Northern Right Whale Recovery

Biologists with the Nongame Conservation Section actively participate in right whale conservation efforts through the U.S. Implementation Team for the Recovery of the Northern Right Whale, a group of experts from various fields charged with optimizing conditions in the southeastern U.S. for the recovery of the species. Biologists have been conducting aerial surveys for right whales off Georgia's coast and have implemented a detailed educational program targeting commercial shipping ports and military installations such as Naval bases in Georgia and Florida.

The Nongame Program works closely with the state of Florida and the National Marine Fisheries Service to implement North Atlantic right whale recovery efforts -efforts deemed necessary to effect right whale recovery (removal from the Endangered Species list).

We also work with port authorities, harbor pilots, Navy, Coast Guard, and Corps of Engineers to protect right whales from collisions with ships. One of our biologists currently serves as Chair of the North Atlantic Right Whale Southeastern U.S. Recovery Plan Implementation Team.

How you can help: Be wise stewards of Georgia's natural environment, and enjoy the out-of-doors responsibly. If boating off Georgia's coast from December to April, follow the Guidelines for Navigating in Right Whale Waters outlined below. Report right whale sightings by calling (800) 272-8363.

Guidelines for Navigating in Right Whale Waters

Mariners operating in the coastal waters of the southeastern United States in winter should instruct all watches to look for right whales. Right whales will appear as black objects I the water and may just barely clear the surface. Look for a "V" shaped spout created when the whales breathes. During night and other periods of reduced visibility, vessel operators should use the slowest safe speed to reduce the risk of collisions with rights whales.

If you should see a right whale, slow your vessel and take measures to avoid the whale(s). Do not assume the whale will move from your path. Record the latitude and longitude, LORAN coordinates, or identify the location of the whale with regard to buoys. Note the direction of the whales travel. Notify authorities and other ships in the area immediately. In Georgia, call (800) 272-8363 (1-800-2-SAVE-ME); in Florida, call (888) 404-3922 (1-888-404-FWCC).

Right whale map

Ship Strike Reduction Regulation Information

A regulation established by National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requires all vessels over 65 feet to slow down to a speed of 10 knots or less while traveling in designated critical habitat areas along the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The regulation specifies that the months from November to March be considered the calving season. The warm coastal waters off the Georgia coast are the only known calving grounds for these rare aquatic giants. The whales are especially vulnerable during this time due to heavy traffic in Georgia's shipping lanes, where they tend to be found. It has been estimated that the loss of one or two female right whales a year could lead to extinction of the species within a century.

A newly developed compliance guide for the right whale ship strike reduction rule is now available online.

The guide can be found in these locations:

NOAA Fisheries Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Website

NOAA Fisheries' Northeast Region's Ship Strike Reduction Website


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