BRUNSWICK, Ga. -

Wildlife biologists said this week that North Atlantic right whales are returning to Georgia and Florida coastal waters for the winter.

The most critically endangered of all large whales spend the summer in the cooler waters off New England and Canada. Each fall, some return to Georgia and Florida.

Expectant mothers also birth and nurture their calves from December to March in the warmer waters off the southeast Coast.

About 200 right whales were documented off the Georgia and north Florida coast during the 2008-09 season, including a record 39 sets of mother and calf.

Commercial vessel operators are being reminded that ships 65 feet or longer must follow federal speed restrictions when operating in waters designated as critical right whale habitat during certain times of year.

Anyone who spots a right whale is asked to call the whale sighting hot line at 877-97-WHALE (877-979-4253) to help researchers and volunteers help to protect the whales throughout the calving season.