Protecting Endangered Right Whales From The Sky

We often think of ocean pollution and whaling boats as some of the biggest threats to the planet’s whale populations, but the secret to saving these gentle giants might be found high above the waves.

The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) has pledged up to $200,000 per year for a total of five years to increase the EcoHealth Alliance’s aerial surveys for the protection of endangered right whales off the state’s coast.

Aerial surveys provide valuable information to wildlife conservationists and researchers, including location and photo-identification of right whales during their winter calving season off the Southeastern coast of the U.S.

“Right whale populations were nearly hunted to extinction by whalers long ago, and they’ve been fighting their way back from the brink ever since,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance. “With fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales alive today, EcoHealth Alliance’s Aquatic Conservation Program is a key factor in ensuring the ongoing viability of this beautiful, critically endangered mammal.”

North Atlantic right whales migrate from November through April to give birth to their calves off of the Southeast coast, which is the only known calving ground for the species. Aerial surveys give researchers a bird’s eye view of whales in relation to the heavily trafficked coastline navigated by cargo, military, and recreational boats.

“During our aerial surveys, we document the births of new calves, record sightings of returning whales, and alert shipping officials about the whereabouts of these slow moving mammals, to help keep them out of harm’s way,” said Cynthia R. Taylor, associate vice president of the Aquatic Conservation Program at EcoHealth Alliance. “The biggest threats to right whales are from ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear, so we immediately alert rescue crews when we see whales that are in trouble.”

Flights are conducted an average of two days a week during the best weather conditions; the team logged an average of 600 hours of flight time at the conclusion of the calving season in April 2010.

TAKE ACTION: Protect The North Atlantic Right Whales

Image: One of fewer than 500 living North Atlantic right whales and her calf. Charleston, S.C., EcoHealth Alliance. (PRNewsFoto/EcoHealth Alliance)


Veronique C.
VĂ©ronique C6 years ago

Signée pour 4 personnes

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

interesting -- thanks for the article

David N.
David N7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago


Alex Keir
Alex Keir7 years ago

I am surprised such a backward-thinking state is spending even this paltry sum to ensure the protection of whales - there are so many tax cuts for the already-wealthy that haven't yet been explored.

ilse diels
.7 years ago

thx for sharing

charmaine c.
Charmaine C7 years ago

Thank you.

Anastasia F.
Anastasia F7 years ago

The title of this article makes it sound like the animals must be protected from a menace in the sky not that the protection would come from the sky.

Kelly Stephens
Kelly Stephens7 years ago

poor whales....

Suzanne Hall
Suzanne Hall7 years ago

What a good thing aerial flights are! Wonderful that they can alert ships in the area, and get help for whales in trouble. Yes, I have seen whales in the wild, hump backs, and they are magnificent to see! The spray from their tail flippers goes quite a distance, and they are just beautiful to see swimming.