Be on the lookout for 30-foot right whale calf off Vero

Photo: Joel Cohen/MRC under NOAA research permit #20626 Jan. 15, 2021/Melbourne Beach

Attention:  beach walkers, swimmers, boaters, balcony gazers and anglers along Vero Beach.  Get ready with your cameras to track a 30-foot-long right whale calf that could pop up any day now in our nearshore ocean waters.

The Marine Resources Council’s right whale coordinator Julie Albert says she has received unconfirmed reports that the endangered marine mammal has been seen cruising along our beaches over the past week, but no one has provided any documentation.

The calf showed up for real off Melbourne Beach on Jan. 15, where a videographer with a federal marine mammal permit captured some excellent drone footage confirming it is the yearling of a known right whale nicknamed Harmonia.  It was last seen heading south.

“We’ve been chasing unconfirmed reports that the yearling might have been seen in Vero,” Albert said.  “We are desperate for information, especially land-based photographs. Get your cameras out and stand on your balconies and watch.”

The animal is the 13th right whale calf spotted so far in South Atlantic waters this winter.  Documenting the young animals is important, whale researchers say, because the population is critically low– estimated today at about 356.  Some scientists predict the species will be biologically extinct by 2040.

North American right whales once were plentiful from the Canadian Maritime provinces where they spend summers to east-central Florida where they give birth in winter.  But entanglements with fishing gear and strikes by ships have decimated the population.

Report any right whale sightings to the local hotline at 888-97-WHALE.

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