Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 6:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 6:25 p.m.
As winter arrives every year, more than 800 volunteers along Florida’s east coast — including many in Volusia and Flagler counties — begin watching the seas for sightings of endangered North Atlantic right whales.
The whales migrate south from New England and Canada to the waters off the Florida and Georgia coasts each winter for a calving season, navigating a deadly collision course with big ships traversing some of the nation’s busiest ports. The Marine Resources Council works with Marineland’s Right Whale Project to train and maintain the volunteer corps, which gathers data and helps inform commercial and military ships of sightings so they can try to avoid collisions.
Volunteers from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach maintain their vigil between January and March. The Resources Council has been training coastal volunteers to identify and report right whales off the Florida coast to its hotline for nearly 20 years.
The work of volunteer citizens has been crucial in preventing ship collisions with right whales, said the council’s right whale program coordinator, Julie Albert.
Through the Resources Council and Marineland, the volunteers gather “critical data” on whale distribution, abundance, reproduction, behavior and habitat use, Albert said.
Marineland verifies volunteer calls from Volusia, Flagler, and St. Johns Counties. Marineland also gathers data and photo identification information from its own flyovers with its Air Cam aircraft. The two groups also work together on public education
Sales of the Protect Florida Whales specialty license plate, administered through Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, help support the work.
To learn more, attend one of these local classes:
Thursday, 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., Flagler County Library, 500 Palm Coast Pkwy NW, Palm Coast, 904-461-4058
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m., Ormond Beach Public Library, 30 S. Beach St., Ormond Beach, 904-461-4058
Saturday, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Anastasia Island Branch Library, 124 Sea Grove Main St., St. Augustine Beach, 904-461-4058
Dec. 13, 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., Marine Science Center, 100 Lighthouse Dr., Ponce Inlet, 386-304-5545
Dec. 17, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Canaveral National Seashore Visitor’s Center, 7611 S. Atlantic Ave, New Smyrna Beach, 386-428-3384
Jan. 15, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Marine Discovery Center, 520 Barracuda Blvd., New Smyrna Beach, 386-428-4828
For more information or to report a whale sighting, contact the Marine Resources Council hotline at 888-979-4253 (888-97-WHALE), email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the blog athttp://mrcrightwhalemonitoring.blogspot.com .
For information about Marineland’s surveys from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, contact Joy Hampp at 904-461-4058 or visit the blog at http://marinelandrightwhale.blogspot.com .