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Right Whale Festival's goal to save endangered species

Hundreds gather to clean Fernandina Beach, learn ways to protect whales

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FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Hundreds of people gathered at Fernandina Beach Saturday to kick off the two-day Right Whale Festival.

The event is designed to raise awareness about the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

"There are only approximately 420 of them left," said Barb Zoodsma, a marine mammal biologist. "We're really concerned about this species."

In fact, Zoodsma says, the number of right whale deaths is exceeding the number of births.

"The main threats we are aware of to right whales are collisions with vessels and entanglement with fishing gear," Zoodsma said.

In two weeks, experts say, the whales will swim close to our coasts.

"This is a really special place for right whales," Zoodsma said.

Last year, from November to April, seven right whales were tracked passing by Amelia Island.

"We want people to know how to report sightings, (know) how to ID a right whale, how to report an injured or entangled right whale and to always stay 500 yards away because we want mothers and calves to have lots of space," Right Whale Festival coordinator Cheryl Munday said. "They can call 877-WHALE-HELP." 

The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.   

About the Authors:

An Emmy-nominated TV reporter and weekend anchor.