1st newborn right whale of calving season seen off Georgia

Right whale calf with mom pictured off coast of Georgia
Right whale calf with mom pictured off coast of Georgia

The first newborn right whale of the winter calving season has been spotted off the coast of Georgia.

The critically endangered whales migrate each winter to warmer waters of the southeastern U.S. coast to give birth. Scientists estimate just over 400 North Atlantic right whales remain, making each newborn calf crucial to avoiding extinction.

An aerial survey team spotted the first mother-and-calf pair of the 2019-2020 season Monday in waters off Sapelo Island, about 50 miles south of Savannah, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced.

The 2017-2018 calving season ended with no right whale births recorded -- the only year not even a single calf has been seen in three decades.

Scientists have identified the mom by her number in the New England Aquarium Right Whale catalog as #3560. She is known to biologists and is a first-time mom, born in 2005. Boaters are reminded to give right whales space, which is even more true while moms bond with their calves. Please give them at least 500 yards and report sightings to 877-WHALE-HELP (877) 942-5343.

Researchers have become increasingly worried about right whales’ prospects for survival as deaths in recent years have outpaced births. Seven right whales calves were recorded last winter during daily survey flights offshore of Georgia and Florida. Meanwhile, at least 10 right whales were found dead in 2019. Three had been struck by ships, and one died after becoming entangled in fishing gear.