Right whale mom and calf make unexpected and early appearance in Cape Cod Bay
Saturday, January 12, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation today confirmed that a female right whale and her calf are spending time off Plymouth, Massachusetts. The sighting of a mother and calf right whale in January is very early for Cape Cod Bay and this is by far the earliest on record for PCCS, which has been conducting aerial surveys for right whales since 1997. It is believed that the vast majority of right whale births occur off the coasts of Georgia and Florida between January and December, with mother/calf pairs returning to feeding grounds, like Cape Cod Bay, in early-April. While it is unknown where or exactly this mother gave birth, it is clear that calf is very young.
This sighting is particularly important because of the identity of the mother, which was confirmed late today by researchers at New England Aquarium. Wart, as she is known, was last seen in May 2010, just days after being disentangled from fishing gear by the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team at PCCS. The team had made six attempts over three years to remove a life-threatening entanglement. They were finally successful in 2010 thanks to a novel disentanglement tool that they had recently developed. However, the lack of resightings once she was free resulted in concerns about her fate. This unusual sighting confirms that Wart survived and has even gone on to reproduce for the first time since her ordeal began. It marks a success for the disentanglers, as well as promising news for the population. With only 500 North Atlantic right whales left, the survival and reproduction potential of mature females is particularly critical to conservation efforts.
The Center is grateful to Regina Asmutis-Silvia of Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Joe Chronic of New England Specialized Aviation Services, Inc.
Boaters and pilots are reminded that it is illegal to approach within 500 yards of a right whale without a federal permit.
PCCS disentanglement work is supported by a grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF). Support also comes from grants from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from private foundations and PCCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under NOAA permit 932-1905.
Right whale research is conducted in partnership with MA-DMF and supported by a grant from MA-DMF and by contributions from private foundations and PCCS members. All right whale research activities are conducted under NOAA Fisheries permit 14603, under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.