North Atlantic right whales are giving birth at a brisk pace compared to previous years. A Georgia state symbol, the whales have calved eight newborns this season as of Saturday. At the same point in the calving season last year, researchers had spotted three baby whales.
Only about 350 of the highly endangered whales remain.
A whale nicknamed “Derecha” and her new calf were spotted off Florida Saturday. It’s her fifth known calf. Her fourth baby met a sad end, said researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
“You may remember her 2020 calf suffered a vessel strike & was last seen 1/15/20 when antibiotics were administered,” they tweeted Sunday.
Despite the heroic effort to save the calf in 2020, researchers believe it died. But Derecha quickly became pregnant again. Right whale pregnancies last 12 months. And the interval between pregnancies is usually at least three years. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service say the time between births is increasing in recent years to more like 6-10 years, possibly because of the stress of entanglement in fishing gear.
But Derecha, which is Spanish for right, beat those stats.
An aerial photo of Derecha and her current newborn taken Saturday two mile east of the St. Johns River entrance shows a dolphin nearby, giving an idea of the size of these enormous creatures. At 60 feet long and about 100 tons, adult right whales are the fourth largest animals on earth.
Derecha is at least 29 years old. In the photo, the calf is less than a week old.