The Clearwater Marine Aquarium aerial survey team reported the news we have been waiting for: the discovery of the first right whale calf of the 2020 calving season!

The team located the mom and calf about 30 miles east of Sapelo Island, GA. The mom is Catalog #3560, a 15 year-old female.

She is a first-time mom, last seen in July in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center aerial survey team. Catalog #3560’s mother was #1308, who also had her first calf at a later age (18). Over her lifetime, she gave birth to four calves, but tragically died due to a vessel strike at the age of 28.

However, Catalog #1308’s mother (#3560’s grandmother), “Pediddle,” is at least 41 years old, has had eight calves, and last gave birth in 2017. It seems like this new calf has some good genes behind it.

First North Atlantic right whale calf of 2020 calving season sighted
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium aerial team spotted the first North Atlantic right whale calf of the 2019-2020 season on Monday, December 16, 2019. The mother-calf pair were sighted off Sapelo Island in Georgia. Scientists have identified the first-time mom as Catalog #3560, born in 2005. (Photos: Clearwater Marine Aquarium NOAA permit # 20556-01)

Seasonal aerial survey teams from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission will continue to look for right whales off the coast of Georgia and Florida through the end of March.

Thanks to their efforts and reports from the public, we know that five other reproductive females have made their way down to the Southeast. Time will tell if they, too, are pregnant. For now, we remain hopeful that this is the first of many calves.

“This is a very exciting update because calving numbers over the past couple of years have been quite low,” said Amy Knowlton, a senior scientist on the Right Whale Research Program at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium. “Biologists have seen a good number of reproductive females (this year). Hopefully this is a beginning of a good calving season.”

First North Atlantic right whale calf of 2020 calving season sighted
First North Atlantic right whale calf of 2020 calving season sighted
First North Atlantic right whale calf of 2020 calving season sighted