A third North Atlantic right whale calf has now been spotted off the coast of northern Florida, giving hope to the species after 2018 saw no births at all.
The baby whale was spotted by a state of Florida research team just a few weeks after the first calf of the season was spotted on December 28th near the same area. Calving season for right whales typically go from December to March with the bulk of births happening in January and February.
With the population of the North Atlantic right whale struggling to recover for a long time due to increased injury and death, the sight of three new births this year is very exciting for the species.
Outside of the concern of the marine mammals dying due to pollution, overfishing, boating accidents and being a product of bycatch, the mammals have seen an extreme decrease in years between birthing a new calf due to the whales not being in good enough health. A right whale typically gives birth once every three years but researchers noticed in 2017 that members of the endangered species were giving birth at a rate of one every 10 years.
The reason for the whales poor health? A dramatic shift in food availability in the last few years causing whales to migrate from the from the Bay of Fundy in the summer to the Gulf of the St. Lawrence which could be leading them to not being able to find enough food.
For comparison, in 2017, only 15 calves were observed, a considerable drop from previous years which typically saw 15-20 newborns.
The best news yet though is that after years of multiple right whale deaths, 2018 saw zero deaths. One of the biggest reasons for the declines is Canada’s decision to implement new measures to protect the whales. In 2017 alone, there was 12 total deaths in Canadian waters while the US saw five reported deaths off their coast.