First Right Whale Calf of 2016 Spotted in Cape Cod Bay

Right whale #1233 with her 2016 calf in Cape Cod Bay on March 27, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit #14603.

Right whale #1233 with her 2016 calf in Cape Cod Bay on March 27, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit #14603.

PROVINCETOWN – The first right whale calf of the year was spotted in Cape Cod Bay last Sunday by the Center for Coastal Studies aerial team.

Researchers said the calf was born shortly before January 24 in the calving grounds of the southeastern U.S.

It’s the offspring of right whale #1233, a whale of at least 41 years of age that was first seen in August 1974 in Southern New England. This is the whale’s sixth known calf.

During the sighting in Cape Cod Bay the calf appeared to be nursing. “We are very happy to see this pair looking well after their long migration north from the calving grounds” said Corey Accardo, Flight Coordinator for the Center’s Right Whale Ecology program.

The whale also gave birth in 1989, 1992, 1998, 2003 and 2009.

The scientists identify the whales by rough patches on their head called callosities; much like fingerprints, the pattern of callosities is unique to each whale. This makes it possible for researchers to track the movements of individual whales up and down the east coast.

According to the New England Aquarium, 17 known North Atlantic right whale calves were born in 2015, so more mom/calf pairs are expected to arrive in Cape Cod Bay over the next few weeks.

Boaters, kayakers, paddle-boarders, swimmers and light aircraft pilots are reminded that it is illegal to approach a North Atlantic right within 500 yards (1500 feet) without a Federal Research Permit.

However, the right whales often feed very close to shore, offering whale watchers on land an unbeatable view of one of the rarest of the marine mammals.

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