Two More Whale Calves Born Nearby During the Solstice

By Lauri deGaris

Newborn right whale calves No. 4 and No. 5 emerged from the long dark night of the winter solstice on December 22—a holiday miracle for our relations under the waves!

Braces (#3320) has given birth to her third known calf just south of Amelia Island in Nassau Sound. Braces is at least 26 years old. Braces gave birth to a calf in the 2021-2022 season as well. Unfortunately, it is believed that the calf did not live very long after birth.

Typically, healthy female right whales give birth about once every three years. They spend about one year pregnant and one year nursing their calf. Then, they spend one recovering. However, due to the loss of her second calf before nursing ended, Braces was able to become pregnant very quickly. The average interval between calves for right whales has increased from three years historically to almost 10 years today. The overall general health of the entire right whale population has declined over the past few decades.

Braces has survived three known entanglements. One of the entanglements left scars on her lip which looks like she is wearing braces. Braces has a seven-year-old calf #3970, who has been entangled five times. Three of these entanglements were while this whale was just a calf.

Wolf (#1703) is a 37-year-old right whale who gave birth to her fifth calf just off Atlantic Beach near the mouth of the St. Johns River during this past winter solstice. Her first calf was born in 2000. Wolf and her second calf were first spotted during the winter solstice on December 22, 2004 as well! Her third calf was born in 2008. And, her fourth calf was born in 2015.

Also, this past week, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute reported two additional potential moms in our region. And, Juno (#1612) and her calf were spotted off the coast of Jacksonville.

Foul weather has kept the right whale aerial surveillance team grounded for much of December. However, researchers know that this region is popular with right whale moms and calves this time of year. And, since right whales spend most of the time just below the surface of the water, it is hard for boaters to spot them while underway. The births of right whale calves No. 4 and No. 5 have taken place very near the commercial shipping lanes of the St. Johns River. This area is also popular with recreational boaters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has published a set of guidelines for boaters during right whale calving season from December through April. They include:

-Going slow may give you time to react. Right whales can be extremely hard to spot.

-Post a lookout! Watch for black objects, whitewater, and splashes. Avoid boating in the dark, when visibility is poor, or in rough seas.

-Use the Whale Alert App to see if whales have been sighted in your area.

-Check for signage at your local boat ramp or marina as a reminder of what to look for and how to identify and report right whale sightings.

-If a whale is spotted, slow down, operate at slow speed or put your engine in neutral if possible. Assess the scene and slowly leave the area while keeping watch. Never pursue or follow a whale and keep at least 500 yards from right whales (it’s the law).

-Report right whale sightings to 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).

-Report whale collisions as well as dead or entangled whales to the U.S. Coast Guard on marine VHF Ch. 16 or NOAA hotline at 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).

Another tool designed to help notify boaters of whales in the region includes the Whale Alert app. Whale Alert was developed to protect right whales. Shipping vessel traffic and whale “zones” intersect often. In April of 2012, a free app was released to the shipping industry allowing them to focus on easing compliance with existing regulations. By using almost real-time data combined with easy-to-read nautical charts the Whale Alert app served to remind vessels when they entered regulated areas.

Over the years, Whale Alert has upgraded its technology and now allows users to participate by reporting sightings of live, dead, and distressed animals. The app covers U.S. and Canadian waters. More recently, Whale App started to include data from acoustic buoys and gliders, trusted human observers as well as data from whale watch boats.

Those of us on Amelia Island who watch for whales from the beach can access up-to-date information about right whale locations at Whalemap.org. This interactive map is updated daily with the latest whale observations in our region.

Welcome to the world right whale calves #4 and #5. May the universe bestow upon you a seasonal miracle and bless you with good health, long life, and many calves of your own.

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lehartgreen
Noble Member
lehartgreen(@lehartgreen)
5 months ago

Thank you, Lauri, for sharing this wonderful news and reminding us of the perils these beautiful and important. creatures of the sea face. Bon Chance to these new mom and baby pairs!

Richard Timm
Trusted Member
Richard Timm(@rtimm-ontheislandgmail-com)
5 months ago

Thank you Lauri