Endangered Species Observers Have Spotted The First Right Whale Calf Of The Season

There is a happy corner of the Internet today, and it is celebrating the first North Atlantic right whale calf sighting of the season. The news is a big deal, considering the fact that the North Atlantic right whale is critically endangered, its total population is only about 450 and not a single right whale calf was spotted last season.

"The weather outside may be frightful, but endangered species observers with Coastwise Consulting were hard at work aboard the dredge Baypost when today, they spotted the first North Atlantic right whale calf of the 2018-2019 season!" the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote in a Facebook post. According to the post, the whales were spotted moving north near the entrance to the St. Johns River off Florida's coast. Researchers had spotted the mother off the coast of Georgia days before.

Barb Zoodsma, who has worked on right whales with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for over 20 years, told WABE's Molly Samuel last season was the first calf-less season she had ever seen, but it was not necessarily out of the question given the state of the right whale population. Zoodsma told WABE's Samuel there were only 94 breeding female right whales as of February. "You don't have to be Einstein to figure out that's a bad situation," she said.

On top of a lack of births, the right whale population has experienced an unsettling number of deaths. A technical memorandum issued by NOAA in September said that as of August, 19 right whales had died in 2017 and 2018. Only 5 calves were born during that same period.

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