Bid “farewell” to the North Atlantic right whales as they leave southeastern coastal waters and begin their migration to their feeding grounds off New England and Canada.
The North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is one of the rarest of all whale species. With fewer than 550 individuals left, it is a federally-protected species under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Recovery of the population has been slow for various reasons, including threats from entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with large ships, and a slow reproduction rate.
During the months of November through April, the majestic North Atlantic right whale migrates to the coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida to calve (give birth) and nurse their young. Sea to Shore Alliance, along with NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (NMS), organized the FareWhale Festival to help spread public awareness of the perils these whales face and how important conservation is for their still uncertain future. In fact, Gray’s Reef NMS lies within these calving grounds and is the only protected natural reef area on the continental shelf off the Georgia coast. The 22 square miles of Gray’s Reef protects an area that is recognized nationally and internationally.
Have Fun While Supporting Right Whale Conservation
S2S partnered with Gray’s Reef NMS to host the FareWhale Festival on beautiful Tybee Island, GA on March 21, 2015 at the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. The FareWhale Festival bid ‘farewell’ to the whales as they returned to their feeding grounds up north. It is the sister festival to the Right Whale Festival held in Jacksonville Beach each Fall, which celebrates the arrival of the whales back to Florida waters for calving season.
Last year visitors were able to learn more about what makes this species so unique and the numerous threats these whales face. The festival aims to be a community outreach event, educating the public about North Atlantic right whale ecology and the federal laws that protect them. Festival attendees were invited to experience the trials and tribulations that the whales might encounter along their migration route as they tried their luck in the right whale obstacle course. Local artists from the Tybee Arts Association shared artwork and Cathy Sakas, The Coastal Naturalist, led guided beach walks. Experts and educators had informational booths set up. Visitors arriving early were invited to help keep Tybee Island beautiful by volunteering for a pre-event beach cleanup, hosted by the Tybee Beautification Association and the Surfrider Foundation.
For more information please visit graysreef.noaa.gov. For details on the festival, contact Gray’s Reef NMS by calling 912-598-2427 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.