|Photo: Kem McNair/New Smyrna Beach|
Score one for right whale conservation and research! MRC's hotline rang at 10:13am this morning and Sally Thomas was on the other end. Sally had attended a right whale lecture at the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach just 5 days ago, and got to see a right whale today! Within five minutes, Mark Atkinson with Volusia County Beach Safety and Ocean Rescue confirmed the whale off Flagler Ave in New Smyrna.
A fantastic effort was made by many citizens and organizations in the following hours to document, tag, and collect a small skin sample from the whale for genetics research. MRC would like to thank Chad Truxall, Executive Director of the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach, who later located and stayed with the whale until the Marineland Right Whale Project and Florida Fish and Wildlife arrived by air and boat, respectively. Thank you goes out to Kathy Nobles for submitting citizen photos and to Kem McNair, New Smyrna Beach photographer, artist, surfer, and musician who helped secure ID-quality land-based photos on a moment's notice. Kudos to Becki Smith, Joy Hampp, and Jim Hain at the Marineland Right Whale Project for their aerial photos and for assisting Florida Fish and Wildlife with their boat-based research efforts.
Today was an example of a fantastic collaboration between citizens, local and state agencies, and non-profit organizations, not only to help protect right whales in the short term, but to learn a little about them in the process, and help secure a future with right whales in it for the long term. Great job, everyone!