Georgia’s State Marine Mammal
While much of the attention is focused in the northeast, right whales have a special place in Georgians’ hearts. Every winter, we cheer the return of calving females and celebrate the new births that can help to replenish the population. Local biologists with our state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies devote significant time and resources to monitoring the whales and responding to entanglements—dangerous endeavors that put their lives at risk. (Read more about their attempted rescue of Bayla, by clicking the photo link.)
So far in 2021, there have been 17 reported right whale births—an increase from 2020, when ten calves were born, and seven the year before. But there were zero recorded in 2018, and even this year falls short of the two dozen calves that scientists say must be born every year to sustain the population. The math is simple: we are killing right whales faster than they can reproduce.
Photo by Florida FWS
There is something we can do. Eat Local—Not Lobster.
Entangled right whales often die slow and agonizing deaths. They must drag the heavy gear behind them, as thick rope cuts into their skin, flesh, and bone. It can cause painful infections or prevent them from feeding and breathing properly. Entanglements are about more than just conservation; they are also an animal rights issue. A species that most of us will never see in person can be harder to save, and it’s sometime easy to feel powerless in the face of such tremendous suffering. But there are simple steps we can take, right here in Georgia, to make a difference.
It’s important to recognize that no one wants to catch right whales, and many in the industry are working to find better solutions. And there are promising solutions, like new types of rope, breakaway links, ropeless cages and other innovative technologies that are actively being tested to make it easier for whales to avoid or escape entanglement. But these changes are progressing slowly and federal agencies must act with even greater urgency to protect right whales. Without dramatic changes, the North Atlantic right whale could become functionally extinct within the next two decades.
The unfortunate reality is that until effective changes are made to the lobster and snow crab industries, eating these luxury items contributes to the deaths of North Atlantic right whales. Until better technologies are implemented, we encourage Georgians to vote with their wallets and pocketbooks. That’s why One Hundred Miles and partners Glynn Environmental Coalition, St. Marys EarthKeepers, and The Dolphin Project are proud to launch our new “Eat Local—Not Lobster” campaign to encourage us all to think about the sustainable choices we can make to protect right whales.
By forgoing lobster and snow crab, we’re sending a strong message that developing whale-safe practices are important to us. As consumers, we have the power to push suppliers to source more sustainable practices, driving improvements throughout the industry. And the good news is that there’s no shortage of delicious and sustainable Georgia-grown alternatives to choose from. Choosing wild Georgia shrimp, oysters, and blue crab support our local fishermen and women and give back to our coastal economy. It’s the “right” choice to make!
How You can help
- Choose to “Eat Local, Not Lobster” as much as possible, whether cooking at home or dining out. By forgoing lobster and snow crab, you’re making a choice to protect right whales and support local sustainable seafood industries.
- Learn about your food choices. Do you know where your food comes from and how it was caught? Know how to make healthy and wildlife-friendly choices with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and the Glynn Environmental Coalition’s Safe Seafood program. It’s always a good practice to ask where your seafood was caught—shrimp from international waters or even the Gulf isn’t as safe for sea turtles as Georgia’s, for example—and stay as close to home as possible.
- Educate others! Share why you’ve decided to avoid lobster and snow crab with your friends and family, or restaurants you frequent. See our “conversation starters” below, or print out a comment card to share.
- Restaurant owners can participate, too! If you offer sustainable seafood options in lieu of lobster and snow crab, contact us for an “Eat Local—Not Lobster” sign and other collateral to share with your customers.
Download our Eat Local, Not Lobster comment cards to spread the word about the simple steps we can all take to protect right whales. Use the cards as a way to share these resources with friends or family, or write a note on the back and leave with your bill at your favorite restaurant, farmer’s market, or grocery store. We want to encourage change while also letting people know we appreciate their commitment to choosing sustainable options, so positive notes can go a long way!
At the dinner table or when out to eat:
I love lobster, too! But the more I’ve learned about the industry’s impacts on right whales, I just don’t feel good about it as an option. Until safer practices are developed, I’m sticking with Georgia-grown seafood.
Did I tell you I’ve stopped eating lobster and snow crab? I’ve been reading about how entanglements from fishing rope is one of the leading reasons for right whale deaths, so I’m encouraging the industry to implement whale-friendly practices by avoiding it for now. I’d be happy to share some resources if you’d like to learn more.
When talking to restaurant owners:
Thanks for all the delicious local seafood options you offer! I particularly enjoyed the (insert sustainable option here). When you have time, I hope you’ll look into the impacts of the lobster and snow crab industry on our right whales, and see if it’s something you could try to limit on your menu.
Eating local is so important to me. Thank you for prioritizing local sustainable options. I’ll definitely be back!
Via email (or print out our downloadable comment cards to share):
I wanted to pass along this resource (OneHundredMiles.org/RightWhales), as I thought you’d find it interesting. I had no idea about how many dangers right whales face! I’ll have to think twice before ordering lobster and snow crab and look for more sustainable options instead.
Since you’re a fellow animal lover, I thought you’d want to know about this. Check out OneHundredMiles.org/RightWhales when you get a chance. Maybe we can try to plan a low country boil or oyster roast next time?
Entangled Right Whales in the News
AP | 7/9/22
The Current | 12/3/21
Boston Globe | 9/6/21
PEW | 7/22/21
wbur | 6/3/21
WABE | 3/15/21
The Brunswick News | 2/27/21
GPB | 1/25/21
Boston Globe | 10/26/20
PEW | 3/12/20
Boston Globe | 2/10/20
PEW | 9/11/19
The Atlantic | 6/27/19
The Atlantic | 7/30/18
Science | 11/7/17
The Boston Globe | 10/26/14
Yale Environment 360 | 10/29/12
VP, Coastal Conservation
“Entanglement is the leading cause of death of these whales that travel thousands of miles to our shores to give birth. Until whale-safe fishing practices are implemented throughout the industry, we encourage residents and visitors to Georgia—and all who love our beloved right whales—to Eat Local, Not Lobster.”
Contact Alice for more information about our efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales and the Eat Local, Not Lobster campaign.