The coastal waters off Georgia and Florida are the only known North Atlantic right whale calving grounds in the world. Our right whale research program flies aerial surveys between December 1 and March 31 every year. Through these surveys, we obtain an accurate count of the number of right whale calves born every year. From our survey plane, we monitor each mother-calf pair until they depart the calving grounds, and begin their migration north to New England and the Bay of Fundy.

Dense commercial shipping traffic in Southeast coastal waters presents a serious risk to right whale mothers and their calves. Our aerial survey team flies with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver on board to collect data on the position and speed of all vessels in the area. This allows us to collect information on commercial shipping traffic and monitor how individual vessels respond to recommended temporary speed restrictions and vessel route recommendations during the right whale calving season.

We are using this information to influence policy and push for mandatory speed restrictions and other measures for ships traveling through right whale habitats.