At least 4 right whale calves, mothers spotted along Ga./S.C. coast

By Jamie Ertle| January 1, 2021 at 6:24 PM EST - Updated January 2 at 7:00 PM 

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s an exciting time in our coastal waters - four right whale calves have been spotted and the season is just beginning.

There are less than 400 right whales left on this planet and only about 100 breeding females. So four new whales is certainly something they’re cautiously optimistic about.

Meet Nauset, a calf spotted December 28, 12 nautical miles off Sapelo Island. She’s one of four mother/calf sets spotted and 10 other adult females are swimming along the Florida/Georgia and South Carolina coastline.

“That’s the most we’ve seen since since 2013,” said Clay George, Senior Wildlife Biologist with GADNR.

George says the last two calving seasons were dire.

“In 2018 we didn’t see a single right whale calf for the first time since surveys started in the 1980s. The number of calves we’ve been seeing in the 2010s was very very low; and now that we’re coming into the 2020s, hopefully that’s going to change.”

“Every right whale calf we can have this season is fantastic, given their status,” said Jessica Powell, Marine Mammal Biologist NOAA Fisheries.

Powell knows mom whales and will get to know these new whales by facial recognition.

“Those markings on their face and around their head are pretty distinctive, and could be considered a finger print for identification,” Powell said.

Nauset is 27 years old and this is her fourth calf. This is a screen shot of NOAA aircraft watching her from above near Cumberland Island on Wednesday. A partnership George says is invaluable.

“Really there’s a lot riding on this calving season. We’ve lost 20 percent of the entire species just in ten years, and if they keep going in this direction, they could really be facing extinction in just few decades. What we need to do is hope the right whales have more calves, but we also need to do our part as humans and find ways to reduce our impacts,” George said.

If you have the luck of spotting one of these whales in the wild, what a thrill! But NOAA and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources want you to do two things: Call 877-WHALE-HELP and then leave.

They need to do the monitoring of these whales from a safe distance. Mother and calf need to bond privately for as long as possible. So while it may be thrilling, you need to do your due diligence and then leave them alone.

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Photo: WTOC

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