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Powerhouse team battles to save right whales

Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has joined the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Liberty Harbor, a luxury waterfront community in Brunswick, Ga., and other supporters up and down the eastern seaboard to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales off the Brunswick coastline.

"Last year we used our acoustic monitoring systems to demonstrate the presence of right whales in large numbers with over 25,000 calls detected off the Brunswick coast," said Christopher W. Clark, director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, noting that last year's research was funded by Liberty Harbor.

Now, with the support of the GPA and the sponsorship and cooperation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and numerous other groups, "as we move to the next step for protecting the whales, we want to repeat and validate that discovery by deploying a buoy that has the capability of detecting and reporting whales on a real-time basis.

"If successful, this would allow us in subsequent years to deploy a network of buoys that can provide notification to mariners and help prevent ship strike collisions with Brunswick's whales. This network is simultaneously being rolled out in other locations along the eastern seaboard including Boston Harbor, Cape Cod Bay and Jacksonville(Fla.)," Clark said.

Clark expressed appreciation to the GPA, Liberty Harbor and the other supporting organizations for sponsoring this landmark conservation effort for the Brunswick area. "This is about someone stepping up to make a difference and accepting responsibility to preserve the local environment for future generations of whales and people. By listening in on the whales a few miles off of Brunswick, we make it possible for their voices to be heard and counted for critical conservation issues." said Clark.

The right whale is the officially designated marine mammal of Georgia.

"Right whales nearly became extinct from hunting and although now protected, they are still killed and maimed by boat collisions every year. Increased commercial port activity has not helped their cause. A viable and decisive conservation monitoring plan is crucial for their protection," said Clark. "This program is specifically intended to provide that long-sought opportunity. It is perhaps the best chance we have to do the right thing for the whales, their environment and our children."

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