It's whale-watching season in Georgia. According to the Savannah Morning News, the elusive and endangered right whale has begun its annual migration past St. Simons Island. The 70-ton whales calve in the southern waters between November and April and researchers have spotted five right whale mother/calf pairs so far this year.
Surveyors from the St. Simons Wildlife Trust monitor the whales' fertility and have been doing so since 1984. Lead researcher Tricia Naessig points to the fragility of the species: only a few hundred survived mass whaling threats. Now, the mammals are in danger of fishing gear and boat parts. According to the Morning News, the researchers recently "spotted a 3-year-old male off Wolf Island with a left flank and back marred by propeller scars." Naessig said the animal's new wounds reinforce the importance of boats maintaining a slow speed when the right whales are calving.
While the region has rules in place to protect the fertile whales, it's often hard to enforce the water speeds. Naessig estimates that it takes four calves to replace one adult female right whale, so protecting these birthing mothers is of utmost importance. Her team hopes that ocean weather conditions will be milder in 2010, allowing the wildlife trust to monitor the whales more closely.