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Right Whales Return To First Coast

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Whales are on their way to Northeast Florida.

Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales migrate to give birth in the winter months. Their calving grounds are off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The giant mammals can get close to the surf line in the First Coast because the sea floor drops off and deepens quickly.

"We may expect as many as 30 reproductive females to show up down there," said Amy Knowlton, a Right Whale expert at the New England Aquarium. "Calving numbers in recent years have not been as good as we would hope. We are keeping our fingers crossed."

Knowlton said the whales will start arriving in late November or early December.

Right Whales can grow to about 50 feet and they have lots of blubber. That’s good for keeping them warm in icy waters. It’s also what almost did them in.

"The Right Whales were given that name because they were the right whale to kill," Knowlton said. "The hunters would prefer Right Whales. Because of their extensive blubber, they would float when killed."

There are only about 500 Right Whales in the world.

The sixth annual Right Whale Festival will be held on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Sea Walk Pavillion in Jacksonville Beach. For more information, visit

You can follow Peter Haden on Twitter @HadenMedia.

Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.