Endangered right whale calving season is now underway

Calving season started over the weekend and lasts through March

Three new right whale calves spotted Monday. (Georgia DNR, FWC, Clearwater Marine Aquarium)

Right whales are an endangered species that usually migrate south along the Georgia and Florida coastline to give birth to their calves.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced over the weekend that calving season is now underway and lasts through March.

Every fall, right whales can travel up to 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds up north to the shallow calving waters down south. They stay there through the winter months to give birth.

In the 2020 calving season, there were 10 calves born, which was up from seven in the 2019 season. Despite the increase in calves, the species is still endangered. Right whales have been listed under the endangered species list since 1970.

To put it in simple terms, the calving rate is not keeping up with the mortality rate.

According to the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, there are an estimated 356 right whales left.

These whales like to swim close to shore and tend to stay by the surface, making them susceptible to being struck by vessels and caught up in fishing nets.

To try and help avoid vessel strikes, there are speed restricted zones to slow down and keep an eye for the whales. These zones can be seasonally monitored when the whales migrate.

According to Oceana, a ship cannot maneuver to avoid a whale at its normal operating speed, putting the whales at great risk for vessel strikes. If the ship’s speed is slowed down to 10 knots or less in the restricted areas where they may encounter a whale, they can reduce the death from collision rate by 86%.

If you’re along the coast and see a right whale and it’s a calf, it’s very important to give them space -- 500 yards to be exact. You can also call the hotline and report the sighting to 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5343) or U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.