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right whale v-blow
North Atlantic right whale makes a characteristic v-blow. Photo credit: NEFSC/NOAA.
right whale sign
The North Atlantic right whale sign. 

September 3, 2014
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Collaboration Key to New Right Whale Sign Campaign

North Atlantic right whales in Northeast U.S. waters are getting some help, thanks to a new sign campaign requesting recreational and commercial boaters to report sightings of these whales and to keep a safe distance from them.  

Boat ramps and marinas in the Northeast, with an initial focus on key spots around Cape Cod Bay, will be approached to post the new two by three foot aluminum signs featuring right whale graphics, key facts about right whales, and hotline numbers to report  right whale sightings, or marine mammals and sea turtles in distress.

Christin Khan of the NEFSC’s aerial survey group at the Woods Hole Laboratory developed the idea after seeing similar signs in the Southeast U.S., and having family and friends ask about having something similar in the Northeast.  She did some checking with colleagues in the Southeast to see how the signs worked and what was involved, and used the Southeast sign as a template. Khan applied for and received an outreach and education mini-grant for $1,000 from the NOAA Fisheries Communications Office, which provided the seed funds to get the project off the ground as other organizations joined the effort.

“The collaboration and support of so many groups made this project a reality,” Khan said.  “Allison Rosner at NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office volunteered to do the graphic design, and Scott Landry at the Center for Coastal Studies offered images.  Many other people helped pull this project together, and enabled us to spend most of the NOAA mini-grant on printing the signs.”

The design is now complete and the first 16 signs are about to be printed at Cape Print in South Yarmouth, Mass.  The specific locations for the signs are now being determined, but the focus is to place them in areas where boaters going offshore are most likely to encounter right whales. “We will probably start with a few signs in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, but most will be placed around Cape Cod Bay. We’d like to have them all along the East Coast, but this is a good start.”

In addition to NOAA Fisheries, collaborators include the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Center for Coastal Studies, New England Aquarium, U.S. Coast Guard, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and See a Spout, Watch Out!, a program to promote responsible whale watching.

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