‘Great news’: 17 North Atlantic right whale calves spotted so far this season

Right whale 'Butterfly' and calf were sighted off Ponte Vedra, Fl. on Jan. 27, 2024.

FALMOUTH, Mass. — Marine wildlife officials on Monday shared promising news about the number of North Atlantic right whales born this season, as they continue to monitor the number of whales being injured or killed by entanglement and vessel strikes at sea.

The number of North Atlantic right whales born this season has already surpassed that of last year, with 17 new calves spotted with their mothers along the coast from Florida to South Carolina, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod.

“While this is great news, the North Atlantic right whale population is still dwindling,” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute officials said in a statement.

“With an approximate 356 of these endangered whales remaining, calves are critical for the species’ comeback. Unfortunately, the number of calves born each year can’t make up for the number of right whales that continue to die,” officials said.

Officials said the leading causes of death for whales are entanglement and vessel strikes.

One of the calves born this season was already spotted with injuries from a propeller strike, officials said. NOAA Fisheries issued a statement saying it wasn’t expected to survive.

In addition to the injured calf, a juvenile female whale was found dead in the water off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard last week, officials said. The cause of death has not yet been determined, but the young female whale was found with embedded rope.

In August, stunning video showed a group of humpbacks, including one of the most recognizable whales in New England, that were spotted “bubble feeding” in the water off Massachusetts.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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