First Right Whale Calf of 2019 Spotted in Cape Cod Bay

PROVINCETOWN – The first right whale calf of 2019 has been spotted in Cape Cod Bay.

The Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) said that on Sunday, April 7, its aerial survey team spotted the calf alongside its mother in Cape Cod Bay. The sighting heralds the arrival of the 2019 calves to their feeding grounds here in the northeast.

“It’s always very exciting to see the mothers and calves. The calves are of course coming up with their moms up along the east coast. This is a whale that was seen in the southeast by colleagues who fly down there,” said CCS Senior Scientist Charles “Stormy” Mayo.

The calf was first sighted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on January 17 in the calving grounds of the southeastern US. It’s the third of seven known mom-calf pairs of the season.

While Mayo says the sighting is good to see, he adds that this particular calf is not new to the population.

“We still haven’t seen any whales to add to the seven that we knew were born down in the southeastern waters during this winter,” Mayo said.

“This is one of the whales that has already been recorded as having been given birth. So, unfortunately we’re not adding any more calves to the number, which is still seven as best as we can tell.”

The mother is identified as right whale #1204. The CCS says she is at least 38 years old and was first seen in 1982. This is #1204’s ninth known calf; the first of which was documented in 1988 with the the most recent in 2013. Out of those nine calves, this is only the second #1204 has been documented with in Cape Cod Bay.

The reproduction rate of North Atlantic right whales had seen a critical decline in recent years, with zero total born in 2017. That rate began to make a comeback over last year with a total of seven calves born.

“Seven is a lot better than zero, but it’s still a very very troubling pattern that I hope will be reversed next year. If we stay at seven, or in low numbers, we’re way below the number that should be born to a population the size we have here,” said Mayo.

“It’s great to see a mother and calf in Cape Cod Bay, but it just adds to our understanding of how terribly important the bay is to the future of the species.”

Boaters, kayakers, paddle-boarders, swimmers and light aircraft and drone pilots are reminded that it is illegal to approach a North Atlantic right within 500 yards (1,500 feet) without a Federal Research Permit. However, the right whales often feed very close to shore, offering whale watchers on land an up close view of one of the rarest marine mammals on Earth.

By TIM DUNN, News Center 



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