CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- A team of marine biologists from Florida is tracking endangered right whales as they migrate south for calving season.
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, and each winter, the mammals travel from New England to the temperate waters of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida to raise their young.
According to NOAA, the most recent estimates suggest there are fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales remaining, with fewer than 100 breeding females in the entire population.
Officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) said the species’ future hinges on calving season, so biologists with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium have begun taking daily flights to track mothers and their young.
The purpose of the winter flights, according to the aquarium, is to alert boaters to whale locations in order to avoid vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements—two leading causes of death for the species.
No whales have been spotted off the South Carolina coast yet, but you can track them throughout the calving season here.
If you spot a right whale, report it to 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5354) or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16.