North Atlantic Right Whale Sightings Winter 2020-2021
“Binary,” a female North Atlantic right whale, was spotted off Amelia Island, FL with her newborn calf on Saturday, January 9, 2021. Dubbed “Lucky 7,” the sighting (aerial image of Binary seen above captured by Clearwater Aquarium under NOAA permit # 20556-01), upped the count of baby whales born during the 2020/2021 winter calving season to seven as of this past weekend.
NOAA Fisheries Southeast Division tweeted the following:
Count Of Calves Rises To Nine
Since “Binary” was spotted on January 9, 2021 with her calf, two more calves were sighted with their moms off Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this good news on Tuesday evening, January 12th, bringing the current count up to nine right whale calves born this season.
We note that “Binary” and her baby are not the first right whale mother and calf spotted near Amelia Island this winter season. A pair were seen very close to Fernandina’s Main Beach Park, creating excitement for beachgoers on December 11, 2020 (thought to be “Chiminea,” and her calf, see more further below).
WHALE NEWS UPDATE 1/14/2021: Wow! The calf count just went up by another two to eleven calves sighted this season, and both were spotted off Amelia Island, Florida. Two more right whale moms with their newborn calves were seen off Amelia on Jan. 13, 2021, according to the Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia’s DNR. The moms have been identified as “Bocce” (#3860), and the other’s ID is #3130.
Calves Also Spotted Off Cumberland Island, GA
Just across the St. Mary’s River Inlet from Amelia Island is Cumberland Island, GA. Back on December 4, 2021, right whale mom “Chiminea” was seen with her calf — the very first calf sighted this winter season, or #1 of the calves seen to date, off the coast of Cumberland Island. On January 4, 2021 another mom, nicknamed “Magic” and her calf were spotted off Little Cumberland Island (this calf was #5 of the season).
Researchers track the North Atlantic right whales by both sea and air, seeking to monitor their movement and also help to prevent vessel strikes with the whales. Air surveillance of waters occurs between December 1 to March 31st. Watch YOUTUBE video below, “North Atlantic Right Whale Aerial Surveys” by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Right Whale Conservation Program, to learn about these eyes in the sky. When whales are spotted, flight crews radio alerts to ships in the area.
“Whales In Steep Decline”
Right whales are huge, reaching up to 55 feet long and weighing up to 70 tons, and were once a target of whalers for their oil and whalebone. The right whale has been protected for more than eight decades, beginning in 1935. Even so, few exist today, with the most recent estimate at only 356.
According to a press release issued by the New England Aquarium, “North Atlantic right whales are in steep decline. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium report card population number for the end of 2019 stands at just 356. This subtracts the 10 known dead from the number released by NOAA of 366 for the beginning of 2019. In just the past five years, over 100 whales are estimated to have died.” (This statement was released on October 29, 2020).
Right Whale Festival Held In Fernandina Beach, FL
The November 2019 Right Whale Festival was held on Amelia Island at Fernandina’s Main Beach Park. Unfortunately, the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 Right Whale Festival.
Boats are not supposed to approach the critically endangered right whales and law dictates staying 500 yards away. The “Shipboard Right Whale Protection Program” was created with feedback from “ships’ masters and crews to provide a simple framework for reducing the risk of collisions between ships and Right whales,” according to NOAA.
How To Report A Whale Sighting
Attention boaters and those on shore along the beaches — please report all Right whale sightings from Florida to North Carolina by calling 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5343).
Previous articles published by Amelia Island Living:
“Effort To Save Rare Right Whale Newborn,” published Jan. 17, 2020. EXCERPT: “You could definitely say it’s been a “whale of an effort” to try to save a rare baby right whale. A team of experts from around the USA have been on Amelia Island at the Florida-Georgia border in recent days.“
“Right Whale Festival At Main Beach Park,” published October 28, 2019.
“Right Whale News & 2019 Festival,” published Jan. 2, 2019.
“Where Are The Right Whales? No Sightings in Southeast Atlantic,” published Jan. 24, 2018.