3 more right whale calves spotted off coast
NOAA reports 9 calves born so far this winter off coast of Florida-Georgia
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three sightings of new North Atlantic right whale calves reported Monday in coastal waters of North Florida and South Georgia brings the number of documented births of the endangered mammals this season to nine.
“We are celebrating new North Atlantic right whale birthdays!” NOAA Fisheries Service posted on its Facebook page Tuesday.
NOAA grants permission to various agencies, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Georgia Division of Natural Resources, to research and document the whales. Adult whales are identified through a database maintained by the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.
Mom and baby photos
Right whale mother “Derecha” and her calf that appeared to in injured by a propeller strike have not been seen since Jan. 15.
Right whales winter in the coastal waters of Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia and this is where their calves are born. Nine calves so far this year is encouraging to wildlife researchers who track and try to protect this endangered species.
According to NOAA, only 400 of these 70-ton mammals remain that face threats of becoming entangled in fishing gear, hit by ships, ocean noise, climate and ecosystem change, small population size and lack of food.
“Looking at the last few years, and the number of calves being so low, there are more deaths in the right whale population that there are calves, and you’re not going to increase the population this way,” said Nadia Gordon, a marine mammal biologist with the FWC. “In the 2008-2009 season there were 39 calves, and we haven’t had high numbers like that since."
The FWC reminds mariners that this is a critical and vulnerable time for right whale mothers to bond with their calves. Vessels 65 feet or longer must slow to 10 knots or less in designated Seasonal Management Areas, but vessels less than 65 feet are also capable of severely injuring and killing right whales, particularly calves. Whales need a safe amount of space to bond with their calves, 500 yards to be exact.
Please remain alert and cautious while boating through the right whale calving area off coastal Florida and Georgia and report right whale sightings to 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5343) or U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16.
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