Ten newborn right whale calves were documented this year off the coast of Georgia and north Florida, their only known calving grounds.
That’s about half the annual average since 2000. But Clay George, who heads right whale research for the Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, said researchers had been braced for worse.
“Given how few animals were seen in the Bay of Fundy last summer, we were concerned that calving numbers could be even lower. Ten is below average … but it’s not off-the-charts bad.”
Highly endangered North Atlantic right whales number about 500 individuals. They’re so-named because their slow-moving, shore-hugging habits and tendency to float when dead made them the “right” whale to kill. They were hunted to near extinction by the early 1900s.
The bus-sized baleen whales are now posting a 2.7 percent per year growth rate. Though not robust, that rate is bolstered by the fact that no whale deaths from ship strikes or entanglement in commercial fishing gear were documented this year.