Four rare whales — two moms and their babies — spotted off Georgia and Florida coasts

Mitchell Willetts
·2 min read

Four North Atlantic right whales, one of the world’s most rare species, were spotted off the Georgia coastline -- two calves and two mothers, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

“Good news for North Atlantic right whales,” the department announced in a Facebook post Tuesday. “These are the first 2 live calves seen this winter in the SE, the only known calving grounds for these imperiled whales.”

One of the right whales, named “Chiminea,” is a first-time mother, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 13-year-old mom was seen near Cumberland Island.

“Chiminea,” a 13-year-old North Atlantic right whale swims with its calf near Cumberland Island, Georgia.
“Chiminea,” a 13-year-old North Atlantic right whale swims with its calf near Cumberland Island, Georgia.

The other, 16-year-old “Millipede,” was seen swimming around Vilano Beach, FL, and is raising her second calf.

16-year-old “Millipede” and her calf seen in the waters off Vilano Beach, FL, swimming with a pod of bottlenose dolphins.
16-year-old “Millipede” and her calf seen in the waters off Vilano Beach, FL, swimming with a pod of bottlenose dolphins.

Right whales can live up to 70 years, grow up to 52 feet long and weigh 70 tons, according to the NOAA. Their range extends from the bottom tip of Florida up to Canada.

The whales were nearly hunted to extinction in the late 1800’s, and human activity has remained an ever present threat since, according to the NOAA, calling the right whales, “one of the world’s most endangered large whale species.”

“Whaling is no longer a threat, but human interactions still present the greatest danger to this species,” NOAA says.

The two biggest threats are getting trapped in fishing gear, and being hit and killed by ships, according to the administration. Growing noise pollution in the ocean, due to human activity, also interferes with the whale’s ability to communicate with one another.

Approximately 360 North Atlantic right whales are currently living, and around six calves are born each year, McClatchy News previously reported. Deaths are outpacing births -- since 2017, 22 right whales were born and 31 died.

A right whale calf was found washed up dead on North Carolina’s Outer Banks in late November, McClatchy reported. Officials believe the calf died during birth or at some point shortly after.