Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finally Some Good News!

With so much bad news in the world everyday, I was really glad to come across some good news the other day. Small wins are important for every species and no win is too small to celebrate.

So what is the good news? Drum roll please. At least 32 new right whale calves have been observed this season off the coasts of Georgia and Florida! Whoo-hoo! This is the most that has ever been recorded and a sign that this endangered species may be making a comeback. With only about 400 right whales in existence, 32 babies is a significant addition to the population.

Right whales migrate to give birth between late November and March off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Volunteers from the Whale Watch Survey Team stand on beaches for hours on end, tirelessly scanning the oceans for signs of these massive mammals. The data they collect helps scientists track patterns and trends of right whale populations. The data also provides clues to the migratory path the mothers and calves take.

Right whales got there name from hunters who said they were the "right whale" to kill. By harpooning the whales for their blubber, they killed them to the point where they were seriously in danger of extinction.

Right whales are huge animals that can grow to 70 tons. How big is that you ask? 70 tons is more than a dozen elephants would weigh. They are do not have dorsal fins and are jet-black, so they are difficult to spot in the ocean. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It is a good thing if you are being hunted, but a bad thing if boats cannot see you, the later of which is the greatest threat facing them today. A new rule that requires ships to slow down to 10 knots as they cruise through the whales' habitat seems to be helping and that is exactly where the volunteers and others come in. Many groups of people scan the waters and alert ship captains, cruise lines, airplanes, submarines and others to the whales' whereabouts. Mom's turtle buddy Mike Frick was part of the Early Warning System Surveys for Right Whales back in the late 1990's. He would participate in water and aerial surveys to track the whales during their migration and alert the previously mentioned of the locations of the whales.

Hopefully people will see these volunteers and researchers, binoculars stuck to their eyes, and stop to ask what they are looking for. "Right whales" they will be told. "Right whales - what are those?" they will asked. "I'm so glad you asked" the smiling volunteer will respond. Mom always says that it all begins with education. You cannot teach someone to want to save a species until you teach them to love it. The world needs right whales and the right whales need us to protect them and their habitat. Please educate yourself and others about the plight of these amazing mammals. Every species deserves a chance in this uncertain climate, so do the right thing by the right whale.

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