SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The third annual Whale Week to raise awareness for the endangered North Atlantic right whale is underway.
Organizers say the grassroots effort aims to bring the local community together and educate people about Georgia’s state marine mammal.
The weeklong event, which runs through Dec. 5, will be primarily virtual this year in light of the pandemic.
“North Atlantic right whales have an incredibly unique relationship with the coast of Georgia, they come here around this time of year to have their babies off of our shores,” said Paulita Bennett-Martin, field representative of Georgia campaigns for Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization.
“We’re home to the only known calving corridor for the species, which stretches from about Jacksonville, Florida, all the way through the coast of Georgia, and then sort of fizzles out in the South Carolina area,” Bennett-Martin told WSAV NOW.
“That is an incredible position to be in, because as one of the most endangered larger marine mammals on the planet, we play a significant role in their future, so if our waters remain safe harbor for them to come and have their babies, then we can see a future for the species,” she said.
Whale Week kicked off on Monday with a virtual youth press conference featuring students and spokespeople from Oceana, Loop It Up Savannah and the Tybee Island Marine Academy.
“Many scientists think that these whales might not make it and will be extinct in the next 10 years,” one student shared during the presentation.
Bennett-Martin estimates that there are possibly as few as 360 remaining North Atlantic right whales in existence.
The whales have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Some of the threats facing the species include climate change, getting trapped and entangled in lines from fisheries as well as boat strikes.
“I’ve talked to friends that have no idea we have these whales right here off the coast,” Bennett-Martin said. “I think sharing information, connecting with others and taking action when there’s action that could be taken is what we want.”
She says the Whale Week events are free to attend for people of all ages.
You can view the full list of scheduled Whale Week events by visiting this link.