Educational Signs Increase Right Whale Awareness
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was awarded a grant in 2004 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation aimed at increasing mariner awareness of right whale conservation and recovery through the development and strategic placement of right whale educational signs. The three by four-foot metal signs provide information such as physical characteristics that help to identify right whales, and includes a map showing seasonal distribution of right whales off of the coastal southeastern United States. The signs also highlight how the boating public can help protect this endangered species, including abiding by the federal 500-yard no approach regulation and immediately contacting the U.S. Coast Guard if an injured, entangled, or dead right whale is sighted. Partners with this project include the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The FWC, along with these partners, are placing approximately 140 signs at participating facilities in close proximity to oceanic inlets near the right whales' migratory route and calving areas. Right whale signs can also be found at major boat ramp facilities servicing boaters who frequent the coastal areas of the southeastern United States.
In 2015, NOAA released a revised sign that includes new photos to help mariners with right whale identification and information about Seasonal Management Areas for right whales. The new sign also includes an updated hotline number to report right whale sightings, as well as dead, entangled and injured whales. FWC completed a review of the condition of signs posted in 2004 and we are working with NOAA to replace signs as needed and post signs in new areas. The goal is still to have signs at boat ramp facilities and marinas that are frequently used by ocean-going vessels along Florida’s east coast and other portions of their calving area.