The Marine Resources Council's Right Whale Monitoring Program was established in 1995 to reduce human impacts to the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Citizens on the east coast of Florida report land‑based sightings of right whales to our hotline (1‑888‑97‑WHALE). This information is passed on to local ship traffic to avoid ship strikes, which account for over one‑third of documented right whale deaths in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Much Thanks to Space Coast River Tours and Port Canaveral

We'd like to thank Space Coast River Tours (SCRT) and Port Canaveral for helping to organize our boat trip on January 17th around Canaveral harbor.  Twenty-seven people were aboard with Julie Albert to learn about right whales in Florida waters.  For the last three years or so, we've done one or two boat trips per season and they're received quite well.   This year, the weather was beautiful, SCRT found several dolphins for us, and a turtle greeted us before we even left.  If you missed that boat trip, you can catch them again to see our local wildlife!  Call Space Coast River Tours at 321-652-1052 to book a boat trip, especially one of their special excursions.  For Valentine's Day, they're doing a Chocolates and Champagne tour and they also have Rocket Launch tours.  Their tours are Monday – Friday 1pm, Saturday there's a Port Canaveral Lunch tour at 1pm, and Sundays they launch at 3:30pm to see the cruise ships leave.  For more information on pricing, directions, and more, please visit .  Thank you Capt. Mark and Carol Noble!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Southbound Right Whale Off New Smyrna Beach!

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!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

First Florida Sighting of the 2014-15 Season

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA research permit #15488.
Happy Whale Season!  The first sighting for the Volunteer Sighting Network was also the first sighting of 2015, and the first documented sighting in Florida!  A call came in to MRC's hotline on the morning of Sunday, January 4th from Volusia County Beach Safety & Ocean Rescue in Daytona Beach Shores.  Brian Brocious was quick enough to record a short video of a right whale on his phone and sent it to the Marine Resources Council after reporting the sighting.   The video confirmed it was a right whale and responders from the Marineland Right Whale Project and the right whale team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) moved quickly to gather photo-ID pictures.  While too far offshore for the Marineland team to photograph, FWC obtained aerial photos and posted the above picture to their right whale Flickr page.

The 2015 right whale calving season is off to a slow start in Florida.  So far, only 14 right whales have spotted in the southeast U.S., including 2 calves.   The numbers are low compared to previous seasons because the aerial survey teams (only two this year) have met poor weather and had to cancel many flights.  With the surveys grounded during bad weather, it's that much more important for shore-based whale spotters to keep a watchful eye on the water so we can report locations of right whales to local ships and ports.  

To keep up with this season FWC whale sightings, visit their 2014-2015 winter calving season page on Flickr.   MRC will continue to post updates with photos to this blog.  In addition, don't forget to check out the Marineland Right Whale Project blog . Happy whale watching!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Volunteers Help Name Right Whale

It was announced on Nov. 5th at the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium annual meeting that last season's only first time mom nowhas a name, thanks in part by the Right Whale Volunteer Sighting Network.  Catalog #3546, a 9-year-old female that frequented Brevard County in March 2014 (and traversed the Canaveral ship channel at least six times) was successfully named 'Halo,' as suggested by Becki Smith, a member of the Marineland Right Whale Project (MRWP).  During aerial photo-ID documentation, Becki noticed that #3546's six post-blowhole callosities appear to make a semi-circle on the top of her head (see photo).  It was reminiscent of a halo, and the idea was born.  During the summer, Julie Albert, MRC's Right Whale Conservation Program Coordinator, requested that #3546 be added to a short list of whales to be considered for a name in 2014.  The New England Aquarium added her to the list, a number of suggestions were made for various names, voting took place among researchers, more voting took place to break ties, and finally... #3546 got her name... Halo.  This is the first time the Volunteer Sighting Network has successfully helped name a right whale!  Many thanks to Becki for the suggestion, to Joy Hampp and the Marineland Right Whale Project for helping to photograph her that day and several times last season, to the researchers who voted for the name, and to everyone who helps protect these whales.  We're looking forward to Halo's return!