ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – On December 28, an aerial survey team with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) identified the fourth right whale calf/mom pair off the coast of Georgia near Sapelo Island. Known mom “Nauset” is 27-years-old and this is her fourth calf.
“Each calf continues to give us hope,” said Melanie White, North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Project Manager and Research Biologist with CMARI. White continued, “but there is a long way to go for this fragile species.”
Today researchers estimate there are less than 400 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) left in the population, with fewer than 100 breeding females left. Calving grounds off the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have been designated Critical Habitat Areas to help protect the species.
“While it is also the hope to come across a new mother-calf pair during our surveys, the elevated level of excited among the observers inside the plane never gets old when we do,” said White.
The right whale is a federally-protected endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute aerial survey teams work with NOAA, Georgia DNR, FWC, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate ship collisions and document reproductive rates, provide scientific data to marine decision makers on conserving the species, assist efforts to disentangle whales from fishing gear, locate carcasses for recovery and necropsies, and assist with locating whales for genetic sampling and satellite tagging.
CMARI recently expanded its aerial survey area to cover the coasts of North and South Carolina, adding 3,700 miles to cover a total of 4,500 nmi.