Saturday, April 03, 2010

{Press} Right Whale Moms, Calves Headed To Cape Cod

WBZ Boston | April 3, 2010

"An endangered North Atlantic right whale mother is spotted off the coast of southern Georgia with her calf as they make their way to New England.

Endangered North Atlantic right whale mothers and their calves are making their annual migration from the warm waters of Florida and Georgia to New England.

Tony LaCasse, a spokesperson for the New England Aquarium, said 18 mother and calf pairs are making their way up the coast. He said some may have already arrived in Cape Cod Bay, though that has not been confirmed.

Researchers say there are fewer than 450 right whales left on the planet. They add these whales are the most endangered large whale in the Atlantic.

Scientists with the New England Aquarium keep the official catalog for each whale. They are able to differentiate the whale's distinctive raised white skin patterns.

Right whale calves are about 12 feet long and 2000 pounds when born. They are generally born in January, February, and March. They will spend the summer months off the coast of New England, returning to southern waters in October or November.

There were 19 documented births this winter, but researchers say one calf has disappeared and they don't know why.

Last winter a record 39 calves were born.

A right whale's gestation period is about a year, and females give birth about once every three years.

Mothers nurse their calves for a little less than a year, and then spend another year regaining the tens of thousands of pounds they've lost since giving birth.

The trip the right whale mothers and their calves make can take several weeks. And researchers say it can be exceptionally dangerous for them as they pass several busy shipping ports.

The whales are slow, swim on the surface and can be tough to spot with their black color.

Once in New England, the whales will stay in Cape Cod Bay and Great South Channel until late summer, when they travel to the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Maine and Canada."

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