Wildlife officials have reported an “encouraging” number of sightings of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales off the south-eastern US
As at the end of January 2021, 68 north Atlantic right whales have been spotted in the waters off the coast of southeastern United States, a number that wildlife officials in Florida describe as “encouraging.”
Three of these are young calves that have been spotted for the first time.
The mothers of these calves are a 12-year-old whale named Champagne, a 19-year-old named Infinity and a 14-year-old with no recorded name (but is known simply as Catalog #3720).
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the whales spotted this winter were aged from one to more than 47.
The advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife describe it as the most encouraging calving season in years. The Guardian reported that the group’s senior attorney Jane Davenport said the right whales had been experiencing an "unusual mortality event" since 2017, in the form of 32 confirmed deaths in US and Canadian waters and 14 serious or non-survivable injuries.
“While these births are an encouraging sign, the continued threats underscore that we still have to redouble our efforts to protect these vulnerable babies and their mothers,” she said.
Pointing out the threats they face, like entanglement in fishing nets and speeding vessels, she added, “We’re killing right whales far faster than they can reproduce. Unless we move quickly to abate these threats, we’re running out of time to save the species from extinction.”
According to Defenders of Wildlife, scientists estimated that there were about 356 right whales alive at the end of 2019; of these, fewer than 70 were adult females.