Documentary at Riverside theater sheds light on endangered right whales

Film examines species’ population crisis, posits solutions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales left on earth, and they’re dying faster than they can reproduce.

That’s the subject of a newly-released documentary called, “The Last of the Right Whales.”

The filmmakers were granted special permits from U.S. and Canadian environmental agencies to document why the species is dying off so quickly and what can be done to turn the tides.

News4JAX reported several recent sightings off the coast of Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia as the whale’s calving season got underway late last year.

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Right whales are protected by the federal government due to the species’ dangerously low population.

The film’s director and producer, Nadine Pequeneza, told News4JAX she hopes the film project raises the level of urgency in the general public and spurs action.

“Even in the time that it took us to make the film 34 Whales died,” Pequeneza said. “Ten percent of the population was lost. We finished filming in July of last year, and the number just keeps increasing. So, this animal is dying at a rate faster than it can reproduce and that means extinction unless we change that trajectory.”

Watch the trailer here

Pequeneza added, ”It really woke me up to the fact that, you know, we could be responsible for the extinction of an animal that’s been on this planet for 12 million years and largely out of ignorance.”

Ignorance, because she said most people don’t understand that the whales aren’t dying of natural causes, but from vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement.

Back in December, a kayaker told News4JAX he tried to get a rope off a right whale that he got too close to. Authorities later pointed out that while his intentions were good -- interacting with endangered whales is against the law.