Whale watchers this week spotted the first endangered North Atlantic right whale they’ve seen in two years off Brevard County’s coast near Sebastian Inlet.
“All we know is that (the whale) is a calf from last year, so only a year old,” Julie Albert, who saw the whale Tuesday several hundred yards off the inlet, said via e-mail. Please visit the ROFFS™ Facebook page for photos of these whales.
Albert coordinates the North Atlantic Right Whale Program for the Marine Resources Council, a nonprofit group based in Palm Bay. MRC volunteers call in right whale sightings throughout the calving season to a hot line that alerts nearby vessels that whales are in the area.
This whale is thought to be the same one spotted Sunday off Daytona Beach. The whale appears to have suffered a recent injury that is still healing. Several humpback whales also have been recently spotted offshore of east Central Florida.
North Atlantic right whales typically pass by Space Coast beaches on their yearly migration to South Florida to give birth to the next generation of the endangered species. But MRC volunteers hadn’t seen a right whale the past two years. Warm weather during the past two winters may have kept the whales farther north.
Right whales are among the most endangered marine mammals in the world, with about 400 remaining.
Early whalers gave them their name because they were the “right” whales to kill. They swim slowly and close to shore and float when dead, making them easy to hunt. They yielded large amounts of oil and baleen — an elastic substance once used in buggy whips and women’s corsets.
Collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear are among the biggest threats to the species.
Photos below contributed by Ed Perry.