Injured Right Whale Calf Spotted Off Georgia

Researchers spotted the fourth right whale calf of the season off Georgia, but the young whale was already injured.

NOAA Fisheries | January 16, 2020

A North Atlantic right whale calf was spotted off Georgia on Jan. 8 with two roughly parallel and S-shaped injuries that experts say were consistent with the propeller of a vessel.

The injuries are concerning because of the severity and location of the wounds. One of the injuries appears to include damage to the calf’s mouth, which could hamper its ability to nurse and feed. Biologists estimate the newborn is just days old and the wounds were perhaps hours old.

The injured right whale calf was last seen Friday afternoon, Jan. 10, 2020 by aerial survey and on-water teams with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Medical experts and biologists spent the weekend reviewing images and video to continue assessments of the injury and prognosis and to determine potential next steps. Based on the images received, the calf’s wounds are worse than originally thought. For example, some of the wounds are to the lip and may not be repairable, leading to impacts on feeding.

The calf’s prognosis was downgraded from “guarded” to “poor.” The current plan is to locate the mother and calf pair, obtain images in order to update our assessment of the calf’s injuries, condition and behavior. Antibiotics may be delivered if warranted.

Right whale mother swimming with her injured calf off the Georgia coast.

This is a huge effort made possible by many experts from partner agencies all over the country. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Georgia Department of Natural ResourcesClearwater Marine Aquarium ResearchSeaWorld, Blue World Research Institute, and IFAW.

In the meantime. officials ask anyone with information regarding the calf’s injuries and additional sightings to contact 1-877-WHALE-HELP (877.942.5343).

NOAA urges everyone to please give these animals their space. Mom/calf pairs spend the majority of their time at, or a few feet below the water’s surface in the Southeast U.S. This is a critical and vulnerable time for right whale moms to bond with their calves. Law requires staying away at least 500 yards by air (including drones) and by sea.

North Atlantic right whales are one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, with only about 450 remaining.

“The protection of these animals is literally in the hands of all mariners on the water and all businesses that service those vessels. Stay educated, remain alert, and slow down while traveling through areas where right whales are found,” NOAA said.


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1 Comment

  1. Shawn on January 16, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    Truly sad, Baby born and hit by a boat. I would like to know if it was a large commercial vessel or a pleasure boat. Seems to me the commercial boats should stay away from the “Calving grounds”. Charter boats should listen to reports to whale locations and stay away. Pleasure boaters, well that is the one you cant control and probably did the damage.

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