Sunday, 1 April 2018

'Truly alarming': No babies for endangered right whales

March 26, 2018 by Russ Bynum

The winter calving season for critically endangered right whales has nearly ended with zero newborns spotted in the past four months—a reproductive drought that scientists who study the fragile species haven't seen in three decades.

Survey flights to look for mother-and-calf pairs off the Atlantic coasts of Georgia and Florida are scheduled to wrap up when the month ends Saturday. Right whales typically give birth off the southeastern U.S. seacoast between December and late March. Researchers have recorded between one and 39 births each year since the flights began in 1989.

Now experts are looking at the possibility of a calving season without any confirmed births.

"It's a pivotal moment for right whales," said Barb Zoodsma, who oversees the right whale recovery program in the U.S. Southeast for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "If we don't get serious and figure this out, it very well could be the beginning of the end."

Zoodsma said she doesn't expect any last-minute calf sightings this week.

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