November 8, 2021

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By: CJ O’Brien, Whale Week Program Manager, 317-220-9302, cobrienwps@gmail.com


The coastal town of Savannah, Georgia is preparing for the most wonderful time of the year and that’s North Atlantic right whale calving season! Every late November through April, North Atlantic right whales travel nearly 1,000 miles to warmer waters where they give birth just fifteen miles off the Georgia coast. 

 

(c) Sea to Shore Alliance, taken under NOAA research permit 20556

 

This Georgia coast, including the Georgia Continental Shelf and Blake Plateau was named a Mission Blue Hope Spot in 2019, advocating for increased protections of these whales who have been heavily hunted for more than 900 years and have yet to recover from the pressures of historic whaling. There are now only about 340 right whales in the current population, with as few as 100 reproductive females. They have faced a 99.99 percent decline in their population since 2010 and research suggests that within 23 years, we will lose all the reproductive age female North Atlantic right whales and begin the end of a species.

 

Nannygoat Beach (c) Georgia Coastal Atlas

 

Like the Georgia coast is a Mission Blue Hope Spot, each North Atlantic right whale that is born represents hope for the species. To honor and protect North Atlantic right whales, the Savannah community celebrates Whale Week. Whale Week is a multi-organization and multi-day schedule of events focused on building awareness for North Atlanta right whales through the arts, sciences, and cultural projects. Paulita Bennett-Martin, one of the founders of Whale Week and a champion for the Georgia Continental Shelf and Blake Plateau Hope Spot created this event in 2018 to build a corridor of consciousness for ocean and right whale stewardship.

 

(c) Lucy Hewitt

 

“Georgia’s offshore waters are a bounty of biodiversity and this was made clear when the Georgia Continental Shelf was designated a Hope Spot. One of the most unique features of this Hope Spot was that every year, endangered North Atlantic right whales come to Georgia’s offshore water to have calves in our warmer waters. These whales are the most endangered large whales on the planet now. Since Georgia is part of their only known calving grounds, it’s important for us to honor our relationship to these whales, and it should be a relationship of stewardship. That’s why partner groups, businesses, and I started hosting Whale Week every year as a way to welcome these whales’ home and remind Georgians that they are here in our waters,” said Paulita Bennett-Martin.

 

(c) Lucy Hewitt

 

Whale Week aims to educate the Savannah community about the threats these gentle giants face, such as entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with vessels. Whale Week brings together experts from across the nation to explore policy, history, culture, science, and art to consider solutions and call on people to protect North Atlantic right whales.

 

 
(c) Lucy Hewitt

 

All Whale Week events are free and focus on youth, new participants and audiences, and encourage new leaders step up to create their own events for this annual celebration of North Atlantic right whales, which have been Georgia State Marine Mammal since 1985. The events explore the special role Georgia plays in the future of the most endangered large whales in the sea.

This year students will create and host their own call to action for right whale protection. Local and national artists and authors will share their unique concepts. Science and policy experts will discuss how they work to protect our whales with audiences of all ages. All of these events are created for communicating with ages K-12 and adults to lead Savannah-centered conversations about what stewardship means to us.

Georgians and beyond are invited to participate. Most events are virtual. You can visit https://whaleweek.org/  to register for events today! You can also follow us at www.facebook.com/WhalingWall.

Some notable events include:

  1. Expert Virtual Lunch and Learn with the Georgia Conservancy featuring two of Georgia’s most dynamic figures working on right whale conservation, Clay George and Kim Sawicki
  2. A Book Reading of “Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals” with poet, independent scholar, and author Alexis Pauline Gumbs hosted by Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center
  3. The Second Annual Coastal Black Women’s Ocean Memory and Conservation Collective event to read affirmations for protection of NARW and healing between humans and whales
  4. A Manifesting Mobile activity hosted by Savannah Chatham Sustainability Coalition Lt
  5. Whales and Women Panel Discussion, highlighting women in whale conservation careers
  6. Classroom activities exploring the Journey of the Right Whale hosted by Tybee Island Marine Science Center
  7. Oceans Career Fair for students hosted by AECOM Engineers.
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