In a much needed win for whales, Florida conservationists have reported a sighting of a right whale calf off the Atlantic Coast marking the first sighting of a calf this season.
In a Facebook post, the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote, “Today: First Right Whale Calf Sighting of the Season!
The weather outside may be frightful, but endangered species observers with Coastwise Consulting were hard at work aboard the dredge Bayport when today, they spotted the first North Atlantic right whale calf of the 2018-2019 season!
The whales were sighted near the St. Johns River entrance, slowly moving north. The mother, Catalog #2791, was seen just 5 days ago off Georgia. “
The sighting is remarkably important as the North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered with only an estimate 450 left on the planet.
Right whales migrate from the North Atlantic to give birth off the coasts of Georgia and Florida from December through March. This sighting marks the first time a calf has been spotted in the last two years. In 2016, just five calves were counted during the whole year.
Right whale biologists survey the whales by performing fly overs of the Atlantic waters off the coasts of Georgia and Florida during the December-to-March calving season each year in order to quantify how the species is growing. Over the last three decades, a average of 17 calves per year have been observed. Starting in 2012, that already low number has started to decline annually leading into this year, where there have been no reported calves.
Right whale populations were decimated by whalers seeking baleen and oil between the 17th and 20th centuries. Today, the whales are at risk of death from ship collisions and entanglement in ghost gear.
In recent years, deaths of the right whale have increased. In 2017, a total of 17 whale carcasses were found on beaches along the US and Canadian coast lines, which were more deaths than the previous five years combined.