First right whale sighting of the year off Jekyll Island

Boaters are encouraged to be on the lookout during right whale calving season

FILE - A North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod Bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., in this March 28, 2018, file photo. President Joe Biden's administration has made a priority of encouraging offshore wind along the Atlantic coast in waters that are home to the declining North Atlantic right whale. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File) (Michael Dwyer, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. – According to the whale mapping website whalemap.org, the first right whale sighting of the year was Friday, November 30 off Jekyll Island.

The sighting was of a female right whale, no calf was seen. Another sighting was made south of Jekyll Island Tuesday, December 6.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) is asking people who boat or fish in the Atlantic Ocean this winter to be on the lookout for North Atlantic right whales that are calving in state and federal waters off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from November through April.

These endangered species are extremely hard to spot and collisions with vessels put passengers and crew at risk and could cause injury or death to right whales. With fewer than 350, right whales are one of the world’s most endangered large whale species.

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FWC provided these boating safety tips during right whale season:

  • Go slow, which can give you time to react.
  • Post a lookout! Watch for black objects, whitewater and splashes.
  • Avoid boating in the dark, when visibility is poor or in rough seas.
  • Use the Whale Alert app to see if whales have been sighted in your area.
  • Check for signage at your local boat ramp or marina as a reminder of what to look for and how to identify and report right whale sightings.
  • If a whale is spotted, slow down, operate at a slow speed or put your engine in neutral if possible. Assess the scene and slowly leave the area while keeping watch. Never pursue or follow a whale and keep at least 500 yards from the right whales (it’s the law).
  • Report whale sightings and collisions immediately to the U.S. Coast Guard on marine VHF Ch. 16 or call 1-877-WHALE-HELP (942-5343).

Learn more about what you can do to prevent right whale collisions at MyFWC.com/Research by clicking “Wildlife.”