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North Atlantic Right Whale Calving Season 2021

by NOAA Fisheries 20 Feb 19:35 UTC
North Atlantic Right Whale © Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

The critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population has been declining for the past decade. With fewer than 400 whales left, researchers closely monitor the southeastern United States for new offspring during the calving season.

Since the start of the 2021 North Atlantic right whale calving season, researchers have identified 14 live calves. Only 22 births were observed during the previous four calving seasons combined, which is less than one-third the previous average annual birth rate for right whales.

The births this calving season are particularly important and encouraging because the species has suffered a serious Unusual Mortality Event since 2017, which has resulted in more than 10 percent of the population either dead or seriously injured. The primary causes of the Unusual Mortality Event are entanglements or vessel strikes. In addition, there are fewer breeding females producing fewer calves each year, which is also preventing the species from recovering. Researchers estimate there are fewer than 100 reproductively active North Atlantic right whale females remaining.

Every identified North Atlantic right whale has an assigned four-digit number in the Right Whale Catalog. Researchers assign names to whales that have a unique physical feature or a strong story in connection to a community or habitat where they were seen.

Meet the mothers and calves of the 2021 season.

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