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Early Warning System and Communication Network

The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) is part of a multi-agency team working to assure right whales are afforded every level of protection while in the Southeast U.S. (SEUS) Critical Habitat. To provide this protection, near real time location information is needed. From December through March four aerial survey teams fly over the waters of Florida and Georgia to locate right whales. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and a network of land based volunteer observers are constantly on the lookout for the whales. Any information provided by observers is then reported to the Early Warning System (EWS) network. Working with the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, the network disseminates right whale location information to mariners in the waters of Florida and Georgia within half an hour of a right whale sighting via the typical marine communication network and a right whale pager network. Mariners are alerted to the presence of right whales in order to alter course and avoid striking and killing a right whale in the SEUS. Right whales sometimes are struck and killed by ships-that is why the communications network known as the Early Warning System was developed.