TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is encouraging boaters to be on the lookout during North Atlantic right whale calving season.

Right whale calving season occurs in state and federal waters off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from November through April. The waters are the only known calving grounds for the whales.

“These endangered species are extremely hard to spot and collisions with vessels put passengers and crew at risk and could cause injury or death to right whales,” FWC said in a press release.

An October study by the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium showed the 2020 population of right whales was estimated to be around 348. The whales are one of the world’s most endangered large whale species in the world.

FWC has the following safety tips for boaters this calving season:

  • Go slow, which can give you time to react. 
  • Post a lookout! Watch for black objects, whitewater and splashes. 
  • Avoid boating in the dark, when visibility is poor or in rough seas. 
  • Use the Whale Alert app to see if whales have been sighted in your area. 
  • Check for signage at your local boat ramp or marina as a reminder of what to look for and how to identify and report right whale sightings.
  • If a whale is spotted, slow down, operate at a slow speed or put your engine in neutral if possible. Assess the scene and slowly leave the area while keeping watch. Never pursue or follow a whale and keep at least 500 yards from the right whales (it’s the law). 

Whale sightings and collisions should be reported immediately to the U.S. Coast Guard on marine VHF Ch. 16 or by calling 1-877-WHALE-HELP (942-5343).