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176 Concord Street, P.O. Box 22287, Charleston, SC 29413-2287
Contact: Erin Dhand, Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Affairs
Telephone: 843-577-8121 • Fax: 843-577-8127 • e-mail: EDhand@scspa.com


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12/1/2009

Wildlife Trust, SC Ports Partner for Endangered Right Whale

Conservation Scientists Return to the Air to Monitor Winter Calving Season

New York, NY and Charleston, SC - For the third consecutive year, the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) has pledged up to $200,000 per year for a total of five years to increase Wildlife Trust's aerial surveys for the protection of endangered right whales. Aerial surveys provide valuable information including location and photo-identification of right whales during their winter calving season off the Southeastern coast of the U.S. “Our ports will continue to grow in a responsible way,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCSPA. “The port community's diverse environmental efforts underscore that developing the port's capacity and enhancing our natural environment go hand in hand. The Ports Authority is pleased with the productive partnership established between the port, Wildlife Trust and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in this effort.”

Endangered North Atlantic right whales migrate from November through April to give birth to their calves off of the Southeast coast. This region is the only known calving ground for the species and has been designated as a critical habitat for right whales. “For the past six years, Wildlife Trust's aerial survey team continues to aid in the protection of this highly endangered species. During these surveys, we document new calves, record sightings of returning whales, and alert port officials of the whereabouts of these slow moving mammals,” said Cynthia R. Taylor, Associate Vice President, Aquatic Conservation Program at Wildlife Trust. “Today, the largest threats to right whales are human-related, including ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.” Wildlife Trust works to reduce the risk to these animals by reporting their locations to military and commercial shipping authorities to thwart potential ship strikes.

Aerial surveys provide the Wildlife Trust team with a bird's eye view of whales in relation to the heavily trafficked coastline navigated by cargo and fishing ships. Flights are conducted on average two days a week during the best weather conditions and the team will log in an average 300 hours of flight time at the conclusion of calving season in mid April 2010. Wildlife Trust's aerial survey team in South Carolina includes team leader Dianna Schulte, Jonathan Gwalthney and Melanie White. The team will cover the airspace from Cape Romain, SC to Fripp Island, SC. “Right whale populations were drastically reduced due to hunting in the 18th century and currently there are fewer than 500 right whales remaining - Wildlife Trust provides a critical role in protecting this endangered species,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, President of Wildlife Trust.

About Wildlife Trust
Wildlife Trust empowers local conservation scientists worldwide to protect nature and safeguard ecosystem and human health. Wildlife Trust is a conservation science innovator and leverages research expertise through strategic global alliances. Wildlife Trust pioneered the field of Conservation Medicine, a new discipline that addresses the link between ecological disruption of habitats and the effects on wildlife, livestock and human health.

Founded in 1971 by British naturalist and author Gerald Durrell, Wildlife Trust has built its reputation on 35 years of global research, education, training and experience. Research and conservation work in the United States include programs in Florida and along the coast of the Southeastern U.S.

Internationally, Wildlife Trust trains and supports a network of scientists around the world to save endangered species and their habitats and to protect the health of vital ecosystems. Wildlife Trust created the first egalitarian international network of science-based conservation organizations called the Wildlife Trust Alliance and is a founding partner organization of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine, a unique think-tank of prestigious academic institutions.

About The South Carolina State Ports Authority
The South Carolina State Ports Authority, established by the state's General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $62 billion annually while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. 

An economic development engine for the state, port operations facilitate 260,800 jobs across South Carolina and nearly $45 billion in economic activity each year.  For more information, visit www.scspa.com. For information on the SCSPA's environmental programming, visit www.pledgeforgrowth.com.

For more information:
Anthony M. Ramos     Byron D. Miller
Wildlife Trust   South Carolina State Ports Authority
212.380.4469   843.577.8197
ramos@wildlifetrust.org bmiller@scspa.com