Endangered right whales spotted off the coast of Virginia Beach

It is estimated that less than 400 North Atlantic Right Whales remain and are at risk of extinction

Right whales off the coast

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales were spotted not far from the coast of Virginia Beach on Wednesday.

Three right whales were spotted less than 30 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Each winter, right whales migrate down the Atlantic coast from their feeding grounds off the coast of New England/Canada to their calving grounds off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Rudee tours conducts whale watches during the winter months in Virginia Beach, and shared the news on their Facebook page:

Our team has received exciting news! THREE critically endangered North Atlantic right whales have been spotted less than...

Posted by Rudee Flipper Dolphin and Whale Watching on Wednesday, January 13, 2021

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with less than 400 whales and fewer than 100 breeding females remaining. Historically, right whales were considered the “right” whale to hunt, and their population numbers were severely depleted by whaling in the 19th and early 20th century.

Whaling is no longer a threat to these animals, but right whales often feed near the surface of the water and are susceptible to boat strikes and entanglements with fishing gear. In recent years, deaths have outpaced births in the right whale population. It is hypothesized that a combination of factors (entanglements, ship strikes, and climate change) are to blame for the recent decline in population.

NOAA has declared a new “slow zone” for ships off the coast of Virginia Beach until January 28 aimed at reducing the risk of a ship strike as these right whales migrate off the coast. Fishermen and boaters are asked to avoid this area or go slow in the area where right whales have been seen. People must stay at least 500 yards (the length of five football fields) away from right whales.

The 2021 right whale calving season is off to an encouraging start. The births of 11 right whale calves have been recorded this year - that’s more right whale calves than in the last four years (there were only 22 births recorded in the last four calving seasons combined).

Right whale calving season continues through February, so there’s still time to add to this year’s calf count!

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