Welcoming No. 14: Another right whale calf sighted this season

12-year-old right whale & her 1st known calf were spotted Thursday off coast of Florida

FWC: Known mom "Champagne" and her calf. Photo credit: CMAquarium, under NOAA permit #20556-01 (CMAquarium)

The 14th right whale calf of the season was sighted Thursday off the coast of Amelia Island, FL.

The whale spotted was “Champagne” along with her calf. Champagne is 12 years old and this is her first known calf.

This past Tuesday, the 13th right whale calf and Mom were sighted off Wassaw Island, GA. Mom is 14yo and this is her first known calf.

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 last week.

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 Authors:

Danielle forecasts the weather on the weekends and reports during the week

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