Endangered Right Whale Sightings Up In 2013

Right whale mother and calf 1-13

Marineland, FL - Another year of whale-watching has officially come to an end with researchers encouraged over how the endangered North Atlantic right whale is growing in population.

Though its overall numbers remain at around 500 or so world-wide, Director Joy Hampp of the Flagler County-based Marineland Right Whale Project says spotters found 20 new mother-calf pairings along the Eastern Seaboard between late November 2012 and March 2013, 7 of which were found passing through locally.

“It’s a little below average for what we’ve been seeing since about 2001,” Hampp explained. “But considering that we only had 7 last year, it’s a great improvement.”

19 of them were found in the Atlantic Ocean waters between South Carolina and Florida, with the other spotted in an unusual place for a right whale to give birth during the winter: Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“It’s quite rare to have a calf born up north like that,” Hampp said. “I’m happy to say both mother and calf were seen recently in the area, so they did survive the winter.”

Normally, the right whale migrates south around late November and sticks around the southeastern United States until March or April, giving birth to babies in warmer waters so they can grow and develop the blubber they need to be able to handle the colder northern waters.

In all, Hampp says around 60 whales were spotted nationwide during the season, 10 of which were found in the area that they cover, which is from St. Augustine Inlet to Ponce Inlet.

Included in that number are the 2 dead whales which came ashore at separate times locally.

The first was December 19, when a 2-year-old was found with his tail tangled up by rope and lines at Beverly Beach in Flagler County.

Hampp says the necropsy report on that whale is likely to be released sometime in mid-May, but it seems likely that the tail being tangled up was at the least a contributing factor in its death.

The other happened at the end of February, when a badly decomposed whale washed ashore near New Smyrna Beach. While experts determined it was likely a humpback whale, no necropsy was done because the corpse was considered too badly decomposed.

Copyright 2013 Southern Stone Communications.

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