Right whale and calf
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  /  AP
A right whale and its calf swims off the coast of Florida in February 2005.
updated 7/1/2005 6:31:32 PM ET 2005-07-01T22:31:32

This is one of the best years in recent memory for right whale calving, with 28 mother-calf pairs sighted so far, government biologists say.

NOAA Fisheries Service confirmed the 28th sighting on Friday, a pair videotaped off the coast of South Carolina as they headed north.

"With so few of these right whales left — approximately 300 — we are very excited about sighting another mother-calf pair," said Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries Service director. "Although this latest calf is small, it looks healthy and strong at this point."

The New England Aquarium verified that the mother-calf pair observed off South Carolina were the same pair observed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.

Right whales were depleted by commercial whaling, and their recovery has been hindered by injuries and deaths caused by through collisions with vessels or entanglement in fishing gear.

They live mainly in coastal or shelf waters, wintering and calving in coastal waters off the southeastern United States, then moving in summer to feeding grounds in New England waters and north.

"On the surface, it looks like we might have good news for right whales this year," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist Barb Zoodsma.

"Twenty-eight right whale mother-calf pairs makes this one of the best years in a long time for right whales. But a lot can happen to right whale calves before they reach maturity. Not all of these calves will survive to adulthood, when they can reproduce and contribute back to the population."

The most productive year since records started being kept in 1980 was 2001 with 31 new right whale calves.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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