Environment

9 Endangered Whales Spotted Off Jekyll Island

This group of right whales was spotted socializing 30 miles east of Jekyll Island on Feb. 15. Among the group was whale No. 1281 (left), a calving female nicknamed Punctuation and at least 37 years old, and No. 3333 (top), a 15-year-old male.
This group of right whales was spotted socializing 30 miles east of Jekyll Island on Feb. 15. Among the group was whale No. 1281 (left), a calving female nicknamed Punctuation and at least 37 years old, and No. 3333 (top), a 15-year-old male.
Credit Sea to Shore Alliance / taken under NOAA research permit 20556
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Nine endangered North Atlantic right whales were spotted about 30 miles off the coast of Jekyll Island on Thursday in southeast Georgia, according to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.

DNR wildlife biologist Clay George said prior to Thursday, only two North Atlantic right whales were seen Jan. 31.

“Back in the 2000s, sometimes we saw over 100 individual whales that would come and go from the Northeast,” George said. “Our aerial survey team found a group of nine whales and that was the biggest group of right whales that we’ve seen in a number of years.”

The whales migrate to Georgia and Florida to have their calves, but George said no baby whales have been spotted on Georgia’s coast yet this season. The calving season is from December to March. In a normal year, there are at least 20 mothers with 20 baby whales or calves spotted along the Georgia coast.

George said two whales so far — one of the two right whales spotted Jan. 31 near Little St. Simons Island and one of the nine whales seen Thursday — may be pregnant.

There are only about 450 North Atlantic right whales left in the world. The population has been in decline dramatically since 2011. George said whales have died after being hit by ships or drowning from the weight of fishing gear.