Northeast
Right Whale #1204 with her 2019 calf spotted off Cape Cod, April 7, 2019, (Center for Coastal Studies, NOAA Permit 19315-1.rt)

First right whale calves of season sighted in Cape Cod Bay

The first right whale calf of the season was spotted over the weekend. Researchers say there are only about 450 left in the world.

Federal fisheries officials and the Center for Coastal Studies have spotted the first and second North Atlantic right whale calf and mother of the season in Cape Cod Bay.

PROVINCETOWN - Federal fisheries officials and the Center for Coastal Studies over this past weekend spotted the first and second North Atlantic right whale calf and mother of the season in Cape Cod Bay.

The Woods Hole-based Northeast Fisheries Science Center spotted the first pair on Saturday. An airplane survey team spotted the second pair on Sunday, according to a statement from the Center for Coastal Studies.

“This sighting heralds the arrival of the 2019 calves to their feeding grounds here in the Northeast,” the center said in a statement Tuesday morning.

The calf spotted Sunday, which was first sighted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Jan. 17 in the calving grounds of the southeastern U.S., was the third of seven known mother-calf pairs of the season.

The imperiled right whales come in late winter and early spring to New England waters and specifically Cape Cod Bay to feed and socialize, as part of an annual migration pattern. There are an estimated 411 of the endangered whales left, and scientists believe the population has been on the decline since 2010 due in large part to deaths from ship strikes and fishing rope entanglement.

The calf spotted by the Center for Coastal Studies survey was born to a right whale known as No. 1204, an animal that is at least 38 years old and was first identified in 1982, the statement said. This is the mother whale’s ninth known calf, with her first documented in 1988 and the most recent one in 2013.

The aerial surveys are conducted under state and federal permissions to provide population and other data to regulators who are responsible for the protection of right whales.

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 without a federal research permit, the center said in the statement. However, the right whales often feed very close to shore, offering whale watchers on land views of one of the rarest of marine mammals, the center said.

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