Quantcast

3 Newborn Endangered Right Whales Inspire Hope for Species

Right whale Catalog #2791 and her calf sighted 10 nautical miles off Fernandina Beach, Florida January 6. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Whale watchers and researchers are rejoicing after a third North Atlantic right whale calf was documented this winter, especially after the previous calving season resulted in no confirmed births.

A whale mother known as 1204 and the newborn were seen off Florida's northeast coast last week.


A young right whale calf and its mother, 1204, sighted approximately 3 nautical miles off Amelia Island, Florida on Jan. 17.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA permit 20556-01

The first baby whale was spotted in December in the waters between Florida and Georgia, and the second one was seen earlier this month, CBC reported.

The whales' calving season usually starts in December and peaks in January and February.

"Every calf is exciting," Philip Hamilton, research scientist at the Anderson Cabot Centre for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, told the news service. "This population has been struggling to recover for a long time and in recent years has been hit by increased injury and death. The births are our hope."

Right Whale 2791 with Two Week Old Calf on January 7, 2019 -- NOAA Research Permit 20556-01 www.youtube.com

North Atlantic right whales are one of the world's most endangered large whale species. Only 411 are believed to remain on the planet, according to the latest estimates.

An "unusual" number of right whales died in recent years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2017, a total of 17 whales stranded in Canada and the U.S. Last year, three whales stranded in the U.S. Their greatest threats are entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes.

The three births are great news for the species since no calves were born last winter and only five (pdf) were born in 2017. To compare, an average of 17 calves a year were born from 1990 to 2014.

Still, Hamilton cautioned about being overly optimistic. "It's a pause in the bad news," Hamilton told The New York Times. "We don't know how long the pause will be."

The Center for Biological Diversity worries that right whales are declining so quickly that they could be functionally extinct by 2040 if we don't do more to save them. Climate change is making matters worse for the gentle giants, as warming waters have shifted their prey into higher risk habitats.

Then there's another possible threat. In April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding offshore oil drilling and exploration. Seismic airgun blasting, which is used to find oil and gas beneath the ocean floor, has been proposed within the same main range of North Atlantic right whales.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

By Kate Murphy

No matter the time of year, there's always a point in each season when my skin decides to cause me issues. While these skin issues can vary, I find the most common issues to be dryness, acne and redness.

Read More Show Less

David Woodfall / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Sam Nickerson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April 2018 proposed relaxing standards related to how it assesses the effects of exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals on public health.

Now, correspondence obtained by the LA Times revealed just how deeply involved industry lobbyists and a controversial, industry-funded toxicologist were in drafting the federal agency's proposal to scrap its current, protective approach to regulating toxin exposure.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Steve Irwin poses with a three foot long alligator at the San Francisco Zoo on June 26, 2002. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

February 22 is the birthday of conservationist and beloved TV personality "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who would have been 57 years old today.

Irwin's life was tragically cut short when the barb from a stingray went through his chest while he was filming in 2006, but his legacy of loving and protecting wildlife lives on, most recently in a Google Doodle today honoring his birthday.

Read More Show Less
Left: Youtube / Screenshot, Right: alle12 / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

That video showed the extrusion of a bubblegum-pink substance oozing into a coiled pile, something between Play-Doh, sausage and soft-serve strawberry ice cream. Branded "pink slime"—the name came from an email sent by a USDA microbiologist in 2002—this stuff was actually beef, destined for supermarkets and fast-food burgers.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the European Commission on Feb. 21 in Brussels, Belgium. Sylvain Lefevre / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged a quarter of $1 trillion budget over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.

In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.

Read More Show Less