Reports of Right Whale Calves Give Researchers Hope

Endangered North Atlantic right whales

HYANNIS – Local North Atlantic Right Whale researchers are hearing some good news from their colleagues off the southeastern coast of the United States.

A third right whale calf was recently spotted during the current birthing season in waters off Florida.

The critically endangered species has an estimated population just over 400.

Center for Coastal Studies Researcher Charles “Stormy” Mayo said the three births are excellent news but female right whales need to reproduce more.

“My hope, and it’s a very deep hope, would be that there will turn out to be a lot more produced this calving year this winter,” Mayo said.

Southern researchers say it is approaching the period that is believed to be the peak calving season.

“I hope they are a little bit late and I would like to see another dozen more,” Mayo said.

There were at least three right whales deaths in 2018, which was down from 17 the year before. Researchers did not spot any right whale calves during the last birthing season.

“Of course you would take three, and it is a lot better than the zero of last year,” Mayo said.

Mayo said it is a simple game of arithmetic.

“You’ve got to produce calves and reduce the mortality, and if that happens then you are in a positive trend,” he said.

The trend since 2010 has been the opposite with very low birth rates and higher mortality rates.

“In the near-term that arithmetic has been devastating,” Mayo said.

The bulk of the right whale population spend the winter in Cape Cod Bay as pregnant females travel down to the area off Florida and Georgia.

“[Cape Cod Bay] is really Grand Central Station for the animals probably starting as early as November and December,” Mayo said. “We found them here in Cape Cod Bay this December and that generally this time of year is what we see.”

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