The Georgia coast is a calving ground for one of the rarest species of whale in the world: the North Atlantic Right Whale.

 

Did you know?

  • St. Simons Island has a statue dedicated to them
  • Females usually give birth to their first calf at 10 years old after a year of pregnancy
  • North Atlantic Right Whales do not have teeth!
  • They are Georgia’s state marine mammal

 

  1. There are less than 500 remaining.

North Atlantic Right Whales are listed as critically endangered. Due to their size, they are prone to being injured or killed in collisions with ships or becoming tangled in fishing gear. Of this number, scientists estimate less than 100 actively breeding females. This year’s calving season provided grim results as no calves were spotted during surveys.

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Eight right whales in a social group off the coast of Jekyll Island in 2018. Credit (full credit required for use): Photo by Georgia DNR, NOAA Permit #15488.

 

  1. Biologists can identify them using callosities.

A callosity is a raised rough patch of skin that are white in color due to lice that cling to them. These patches are unique to each whale allowing biologists to identify them.

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Right whale with callosities. Credit (full credit required for use): Photo by Georgia DNR, NOAA Permit #15488.

 

  1. They only eat plankton.

Despite reaching lengths up to 50 feet, North Atlantic Right Whales only eat zooplankton. Instead, they have what’s called “baleen”. Baleen works as a filter feeder allowing water to exit but not the organisms they’re eating. North Atlantic Right Whales are different from most other baleen whales as they will open their mouths completely and swimming through patches of food.

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Juvenile right whale showing off its baleen. Credit (full credit required for use): Photo by Georgia DNR, NOAA Permit #15488.

 

  1. They calve in waters off the Southeastern United States.

Calving season occurs off the coast of Georgia and northern Florida between December and March. Right whales will travel more than 1,000 miles from the coast of New England to these areas. This is when biologists take to the sky and survey them from helicopters.

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Right whale with her approximately 3 day old calf in 2013. Credit (full credit required for use): Photo by Georgia DNR, NOAA Permit #15488.

 

You can help by reporting sightings of dead, injured, or entangled whales by calling 1- 877-WHALE-HELP or the U.S. Coast Guard on marine VHF channel 16. You can also help whales and other marine mammals just by using your smarphone. For more information, visit http://1.usa.gov/1b1kqfv.