Northern Right Whale Monitoring Program

December 5, 2007

The Northern Right Whale Monitoring Program, run by the Marine Resources Council (MRC), coordinates a group of over 600 coastal volunteers who learn to identify right whales and report the sightings to their hotline (1-888-97-WHALE or 1-888-979-4253). For the past seven years, MRC, Associated Scientists at Woods Hole (ASWH), and Marineland of Florida have combined their efforts to coordinate volunteers, report right whale sightings, and gather data. The work of volunteer citizens is crucial in preventing ship collisions with right whales, the most endangered of the great whales.

North Atlantic right whales migrate every winter to the coasts of Florida and Georgia, the only known place in the world where they give birth to their calves. During their migration from New England, pregnant mothers transect several busy shipping lanes. Only about 400 right whales remain, and they will become extinct if they are not protected from their number one killer - collisions with ships.

Through the support of the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, the Marine Resources Council monitors a hotline (1-888-97-WHALE) for their 600+ volunteers and the public to report right whale sightings during the winter. Information gathered through the hotline is verified and passed along to commercial and military ships in the area in order to avoid collisions.

Once a sighting is reported to the hotline, MRC makes an effort to photograph the whales. The importance in documenting how the whales travel, associate with each other, and use the habitat, earned MRC crucial photographic equipment sponsored by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution through the sale of Protect Florida Whales license plates.

The Canaveral Port Authority, our longest-term supporter, funds our efforts to confirm sightings, report whales to harbor pilots at the Port, and not only avoid a collision to protect the whales, but to greatly reduce the risk of damage to vessels, which can have an economic impact in our area.

The Right Whale Monitoring Program kicked off its 2007-2008 winter calving season in style onboard the Disney Magic Cruiseliner to honor their Conservation Hero Award winner, Cynthia Dolaway, for her volunteer efforts protecting right whales. She races to confirm right whale sightings along the Brevard County beaches and helps with educational events. Cynthia also volunteers her time with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. Ms. Dolaway was nominated by the Marine Resources Council and her peers in the conservation community. She received a cash prize at the December 1 volunteer appreciation party, sponsored by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund (DWCF).

To learn more, please attend one of the following classes in your area and call 1-888-97-WHALE (1-888-979-4253) to report right whale sightings from December through April.

How do you tell a right whale from another whale? Right whales have:

  1. rough, white patches of skin on the head called callosities
  2. short, stubby, black flippers on the sides of the body
  3. triangular, black tail with smooth edges and a deep notch in the middle
  4. no dorsal (back) fin
  5. V-shaped blow of water when they exhale
  6. They can be seen very close to shore

It is illegal to approach a North Atlantic right whale or to be within 1500 feet (500 yards) of a right whale. Violators of this federal law are subject to severe penalties. If a right whale is close to shore, do not get in the water. If a right whale approaches you, leave the area at a slow, safe speed.

For more information, please contact the Marine Resources Council at 888-979-4253, (321) 725-7775, email us at or write to us at 3275 Dixie Hwy. NE, Palm Bay, FL 32905. MRC will again conduct free education and training classes to identify the right whale in Florida coastal waters. Learn how you can participate in spotting right whales from shore and help protect the most endangered of the great whales while they use our waters to give birth. Classes last about an hour. Educational materials will be distributed.


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