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News | Nov. 27, 2013

Navy Celebrates Annual Return of Right Whales

By Steve Strickland Commander, Navy Region Southeast

The Navy helped celebrate the annual return of the right whale to its calving grounds in Florida and Georgia waters at the Right Whale Festival held Nov. 23 at the Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

According to Rob Kalin, an operations environmental coordinator for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, the festival has grown every year. "It's a great way to engage kids and parents in a dialogue, and to show them what we do," said Kalin. "We do a lot, the Navy is the largest sponsor of marine mammal research in the world."

Georgiana Herzberg lives in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville, Fla. and said this is the first time she has been to the Right Whale Festival. 

"I think it's important to be aware of the world and our impact on it," Herzberg said. "I'm concerned about the Navy's impact on marine species."

Herzberg was impressed with the research the University of North Florida is doing. "The UNF booth taught me a lot, and I think the Navy should link up with UNF for research. I know the Navy does research out in California, but linking up with other people is good," she added.

"The Navy has been here every year since the festival started," said Nancy Allen, a marine research specialist for Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast. Allen and Steve Biemiller, a NAVFAC Southeast biologist, are regulars at the festival, as is Kalin.

Under blue skies and mild temperatures, adults and children perused the many booths at the festival that is sponsored by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Sea and Shore Alliance. The festival celebrates the return to Florida and Georgia waters of the right whale to its annual calving grounds.

"Many people are unaware that the Navy, along with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard, pays for aerial right whale surveys and sightings," Allen said. "We also like to explain the mitigation measures the Navy has in place to prevent ship strikes, which are major cause of whale fatalities."

According to Allen, the Navy is a leader in whale protection. "We care about our whales and other marine species - absolutely!" 

Biemiller said, "It's good to let people know what the Navy is doing and to show them the environmental side of the Navy."

Kalin has been out at the Right Whale Festival for the last four years to let people know what the Navy is doing.

"I enjoy it," Kalin said. "It's a great opportunity to meet people who don't know what we do. We show them we have a plan in place, and that we work closely with other agencies to help ensure that the right whale will be around for generations to come."

For those who took the time to visit the festival, they had a chance to see what many agencies and organizations are doing to protect the endangered right whale. 

"The more we do this, the more we get to show our support for the marine environment," said Kalin.