Wildlife Trust, SC Ports Renew Partnership for Endangered Right Whale

November 17, 2008

Conservation Scientists Resume Aerial Surveys to Monitor Winter Calving Season

New York, NY and Charleston, SC – For the second year, scientists at Wildlife Trust will increase their aerial surveys of right whales thanks to extended funding from the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA). The SCSPA, as part of its “Pledge for Growth” commitment to the community and local environment, has renewed its partnership with Wildlife Trust to help monitor and protect right whales in the region. Wildlife Trust scientists began their new survey season on Saturday.


Endangered North Atlantic right whales migrate to the Southeastern U.S. coast to give birth to their calves. This region is the only known calving ground for the species and has been designated as a critical habitat for right whales. During the project permitting process for the new container terminal in North Charleston, collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the SCSPA resulted in increased efforts to protect right whales along the South Carolina coast. Through its agreement, the SCSPA pledged up to $200,000 per year for five years to Wildlife Trust.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with Wildlife Trust as part of our overall commitment to protecting the environment,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., SCSPA president and CEO. “Through our Pledge for Growth, we believe that the success of the port can mean great things for both the economy and our environment,” said Groseclose, referring to the more than $12 million in community and environmental projects planned or under way in conjunction with the new terminal development.

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The purpose of monitoring right whales through aerial surveys is two-fold: aerial surveys provide vital information to wildlife managers on right whale calving distribution and the location of these slow-moving animals. The largest threats to the right whale population are human-related, including ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Wildlife Trust works to minimize the risk to these animals by locating right whales during daily aerial surveys from November through April and reporting locations to military and commercial shipping traffic to mitigate potential ship strikes. The SCSPA-funded survey area spans from Cape Romain, SC to Fripp Island, SC.

“With fewer than 400 right whales remaining in the population every whale is vital to the survival of this critically endangered species,” said Dr. Mary C. Pearl, president of Wildlife Trust.

Aerial flights are conducted three to four days a week during the best weather conditions. In the previous season funded by the SCSPA, which began in January of this year and concluded in mid-April, the survey team logged six sightings with a total of 16 whales spotted.

About Wildlife Trust

Wildlife Trust empowers local conservation scientists worldwide to protect nature and safeguard ecosystem and human health. Wildlife Trust is a conservation science innovator and leverages research expertise through strategic global alliances. Wildlife Trust pioneered the field of Conservation Medicine, a new discipline that addresses the link between ecological disruption of habitats and the effects on wildlife, livestock and human health.

Founded in 1971 by British naturalist and author Gerald Durrell, Wildlife Trust has built its reputation on 35 years of global research, education, training and experience. Work in the United States includes research, conservation, and training programs in the metropolitan New York area, Florida and along the coast of the Southeastern U.S.

Internationally, Wildlife Trust trains and supports a network of scientists around the world to save endangered species and their habitats and to protect the health of vital ecosystems. Wildlife Trust created the first egalitarian international network of science-based conservation organizations, the Wildlife Trust Alliance, and is a founding partner organization of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine, a unique collaboration between Wildlife Trust and prestigious academic institutions around the world. To learn more please go to http://www.wildlifetrust.org.

About the South Carolina State Ports Authority

The South Carolina State Ports Authority, established in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $60 billion annually.