Save the whales, because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do

Posted on November 27, 2011

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Boat Builder/Whaler/Church Preacher One of the only pictures from Diamond City (Picture from Core Sound Waterfowl Museum)

Fishermen and boaters on the East Coast have been cautioned to stay alert and observant when they are out on the water. November through April, the East Coast, especially the coast of North Carolina, should be expecting to see right whales as this is the time of the year when they migrate to warmer coastal waters.

Scientists estimate that the remaining number of right whales is as few as 360. This number makes right whales the most endangered marine mammals in the world.

Each winter pregnant right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from Canada and New England, their normal feeding grounds. They head south in search of the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida.

Barb Zoodsma, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service’s right whale recovery program coordinator, has found that pregnant whales stay longer on NC’s coast, mainly the Outer Banks.

One island where right whales have been spotted close to shore frequently during their migration is Shackleford Banks, also known as Shack. It is a small island that is part of the Outer Banks and it is located between Beaufort and Harkers Island. When Shack is mentioned, the wild horses that live on the island or the great waves for surfers probably come to mind.

What most of people don’t know is that Shackleford Banks once was a prospering whaling community in the early 18th century.

The community was initially known as “Lookout Woods,” but the name was changed in 1885 to “Diamond City.” The name came from the nearby lighthouse with its black and white diamonds, currently known as the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Historian David Stick notes that while Diamond City was active in whaling for only about twenty five years, the Shackleford Banks area was well-known in the whaling industry until operations ceased in 1917.

There are people living today in Eastern North Carolina that were born on Diamond City and who lived there as children, who watched the men go out to sea to hunt whales during the migration season.

Today, right whales continue to migrate near what was Diamond City, but now, they are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Mammal Protection Act. Federal law forbids watercrafts or aircrafts from approaching or remaining within 500 yards of right whales.

The number of right whales dwindles every year so it is critical to protect the ones that are left as well as we can. NOAA Fisheries Service asks people to report sightings of dead, injured, or entangled whales to NOAA at (877) 433-8299.

Reported by Kelsey Hernandez

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