This year’s calving season is critical to the species’ survival.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (December 8, 2020) – On Friday, December 4, an aerial survey team with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) identified the fist right whale calf/mom pair off the coast of Georgia near Cumberland Island. Two days later on Sunday, December 6, a team with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spotted the second calf/mom pair off Vilano Beach, Florida.
“During our third survey of the season, CMARI aerial observer Marcy Lee sighted a whale. She knew in that moment it was a North Atlantic right whale calf. The first large whale of the season and it was a calf! Soon enough the team knew the mother would surface for a breath of air and the calving season would have the first live mother-calf right whale pair,” said Melanie White, North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Project Manager and Research Biologist with Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “Uplifting news for this fragile species especially during the first week of December.”
Today researchers estimate there are less than 400 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) left in the population, with fewer than 100 breeding females left. Calving grounds off the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have been designated Critical Habitat Areas to help protect the species.
“The CMARI Right Whale Conservation Program works hand-in-hand with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, and FWC to actively monitor right whales during calving season,” said Dr. James Powell, Executive Director of CMARI. “Through aerial surveys we work together to protect the species.” Powell continued, “Recovery had been slow and steady until 2010 when we started to see a decline. Most recent population models show that the numbers are declining again for various reasons including a slow reproduction rate, threats from entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with large vessels, and possibly other factors not yet identified.”
The right whale is a federally-protected endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute aerial survey teams work with NOAA, Georgia DNR, and FWC to mitigate ship collisions and document reproductive rates, provide scientific data to marine decision makers on conserving the species, assist efforts to disentangle whales from fishing gear, locate carcasses for recovery and necropsies, and assist with locating whales for genetic sampling and satellite tagging.
- About Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working marine rescue center dedicated to preserving our marine life and environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. CMA is home to rescue dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, nurse sharks and more. Winter, the dolphin’s story of survival after injury that caused her to lose her tail, has impacted millions of people around the world. A major motion picture, Dolphin Tale, highlighted her life story in 2011. The sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, was released in September 2014 and features the incredible story of Hope, a young resident dolphin of CMA. The mission and potential to change people’s lives differentiates Clearwater Marine Aquarium from any other aquarium in the world
We believe in preserving our environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life; environmental education; research; and conservation.
A Florida non-profit 501(c)(3) organization