Whale researchers at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center to believe they have identified a wintering ground and potentially a breeding ground for this endangered species.
A large number of North Atlantic right whales have been seen in the Gulf of Maine in recent days. A plane crew spotted 44 in one location on Dec. 3 and 41 at another area on Dec. 14, the centre said in a news release.
The total North Atlantic right whale population is estimated at just 325 animals. There are two other groups, one in the the North Pacific and one in the southern hemisphere.
Where the whales go in winter is a mystery because of the difficulties facing aerial surveys covering huge areas in bad weather.
An estimated 100 female North Atlantic right whales head south in winter to give birth in the waters off Florida and Georgia, but little is known about where other individual right whales in the population go in winter, largely due to difficult surveying conditions.
The NEFSCA team developed an aerial grid system to allow consistent surveys. They now know that the whales tend to congregate in certain areas, and follow the circulation system of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, said Cole. They move north as the weather warms, reaching the Bay of Fundy in mid-summer.