Lucky No. 13: Another right whale calf sighted this season

14-year-old right whale & her 1st known calf were spotted Tuesday off coast of Georgia

A 14-year-old right whale and her first known calf were sighted Tuesday off Wassaw Island, Georgia. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

The 13th right whale calf of the season was sighted Tuesday off the coast of Georgia.

The calf and its mother were spotted off Wassaw Island, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Southeast announced Wednesday on Twitter.

This is the 14-year-old mother’s first known calf.

Earlier this week, a 19-year-old right whale named Infinity and her first calf were sighted off Amelia Island.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 65 North Atlantic right whales have been sighted from North Carolina to Florida so far this winter, including the 13 newborn calves.

“The remaining right whales sighted include males and females that range in age from one year to greater than 47 years old,” FWC said in a Facebook post Thursday.

Right whale update: Calves #12 and #13! 65 North Atlantic right whales have been sighted from North Carolina to Florida...

Posted by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on Thursday, January 21, 2021

According to NOAA, the North Atlantic right whale calving season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April.

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

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.

“Right whales are low profile and can be difficult to see while boating,” FWC said. “They spend a lot of time at or near the surface while in the calving grounds, particularly mother-calf pairs. This is a critical and vulnerable time for right whale mothers to bond with their calves.”

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.

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.

About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4Jax in March 2016.