ATLANTA -- Georgians celebrated a late Christmas present on Monday when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a sighting of the season’s ninth North Atlantic right whale calf. The new calf and its mother, Tripelago, were spotted swimming side by side off the coast of Georgia the day after Christmas. This birth is a welcome sign for Georgia’s state marine mammal, which is one of the most critically endangered whales in America’s oceans.
With less than 340 right whales left in our oceans, every new calf is a cause for celebration. Human activities -- vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear-- are the leading cause of death for the species, which has seen its population plummet in recent years. Scientists estimate that the species can lose just one whale per year to non-natural causes in order to stave off extinction. In the last three years alone, scientists estimate over 30 right whales have been lost.
Right whales spend most of the year in their feeding grounds in the North Atlantic, but migrate down south each fall to give birth in warmer waters off the coasts of Georgia, North Carolina and eastern Florida.
It’s estimated that about two dozen right whale calves need to be born each year in order for the population to stabilize and grow, so each new calf born is a notable win for the fragile species.
Kate Griese, oceans associate with Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center, issued the following statement:
“As we celebrate the coming new year, it’s a hopeful sign to see new life off Georgia’s coast. A baby North Atlantic right whale is a welcome sight for all of us fighting for the survival of these critically endangered whales.
"North Atlantic right whales are a majestic and maternal species--two of the many reasons we’re proud to call them Georgia’s state marine mammal. With only an estimated 360 right whales left in our oceans, it’s critical we act now to prevent right whales from facing extinction. Our decision makers need to do everything in their power to save the North Atlantic right whale.”
Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting Georgia's air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment.