Right Whales Head Back to Georgia; Starting Next Week, a New Regulation Should Help Protect Them

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY LANDERS

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Highly endangered north Atlantic right whales are making their way back to Georgia waters.

A survey team from the Wildlife Trust spotted a pair of adult females traveling south about 7 miles off Charleston harbor on Nov. 23.

The next day they saw another adult female about 6 miles off the Savannah River. They also spotted the first mother/calf pair of the season about 7 miles off Hilton Head Island, said Dianna Schulte, who leads the Wildlife Trust's South Carolina survey team.

Right whales spend summers feeding in New England and Canadian waters. The females migrate south in the late fall to their only known calving grounds, off the coast of Georgia and Florida. Last year, 23 calves were born.

Once hunted nearly to extinction for their oil, fewer than 400 right whales are thought to be alive now.

Their biggest threats today are ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. A new federal regulation that goes into effect Tuesday takes aim at the former by requiring large ships to slow to 10 knots [about 12 mph] in areas where the whales feed and reproduce, as well as along migratory routes in between. …