Newborn Right Whale Calf Swimming With Its Mom Pictured Off Georgia Coast

An endangered North Atlantic right whale calf has been spotted swimming with its mom off Cumberland Island in Georgia.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries spotted the calf alongside a third-time mother, who is around 21-year-old.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world's most endangered whale species—there may be as few as 350 remaining, with only 100 thought to be reproductively active. The species is under threat from being entangled in commercial fishing gear as well as vessel strikes.

Female right whales can breed at the age of 10 and give birth after a year-long gestation period. Three years is considered a normal interval between births. However in recent years, females have only been giving birth every 6 to 10 years. According to NOAA, this may be down to stress caused by human interactions, as well as insufficient food resources because of habitat disruption.

The calf is the 14th of the 2022 right whale calving season, which typically runs from November to April. It marks a steady increase from previous years of very low numbers.

In 2020, only ten calves were spotted in the entire season. There were only seven recorded in 2019 and none in 2018. In 2021 births began to increase, and 20 calves were spotted.

Despite the slight increase in births, the NOAA still fears that right whales are dying too frequently for the current birth rate to make up for the loss in numbers.

NOAA Fish Southeast shared a picture of the calf and its mom on Twitter, warning people to give them space. By law, people are required to keep at least 500 yards from whales.

Right whale
The calf was spotted swimming alongside its mother. It is the 14th of the calving season. Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Entanglement is one of the biggest threats facing the right whales in the North Atlantic. A female right whale known as Snow Cone had been entangled in thick, heavy fishing rope since March 2021.

Snow Cone gave birth to a calf at the end of 2021 and they have been spotted several times since. She is easily identifiable because of the rope she carries along with her.

Rescuers have managed to remove hundreds of feet from the rope to increase her chance of survival. She was last spotted on January 19 near Florida. During this sighting, the rope was coming out of both sides of her mouth and was embedded in her upper jaw.

Rescuers have determined that it would be too dangerous to try and remove the rest of the rope with a newborn calf present, as they swim very close to their moms.

Despite this, Snow Cone and her calf currently appear well and healthy.