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Contributed by Katie A. Jackson,
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
As of mid-February, we have reached the middle of the 2010 North Atlantic right whale calving season and despite long periods of high winds and rough seas the survey teams have detected over 120 individual right whales in the coastal waters of the southeast U.S. Water temperatures are noticeably cooler than in recent winters and it appears right whale distribution may have shifted south as a result. Large concentrations of whales have been observed between Jacksonville and Matanzas Inlets and nearshore Flagler Beach, Ormond Beach, and Ponce Inlet in comparison to recent winters when whales were more commonly sighted between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL. The vast majority of these whales are juveniles including approximately thirty-five 2008 and 2009 season calves.
Juveniles are common in the 2010 SEUS season. These are two yearlings, the 2009 calf of 1151 “Mavynne” (left) and the 2009 calf of 1503 “Trilogy” (right). (Photo: 19 January 2010, 12 miles off the St. Augustine Inlet, Corey Accardo, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) No mortalities and no new entanglements have been reported or observed by the survey teams to date. Chronically entangled whale #3346 “Kingfisher” has been sighted multiple times and appears in good health and the 2008 calf of 1208 was documented to be gear-free. Several juvenile whales have been observed with resolving wounds including #3745 with two propeller series across his back and the 2009 calf of 1240 with severe fluke wounds likely caused by entanglement. Eleven mother-calf pairs have been sighted to date including #1145 and #1701 “Aphrodite,” who gave birth to their 7th and 5th calves respectively. Four of the eleven mothers were born in 2001 during the then record-breaking season of thirty-one calves; three of these four are “first-time mothers”. A handful of potential mothers have been sighted in the area recently and the survey teams remain optimistic that more calves will be observed in the coming weeks.