Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Calving Season Ends, but No Baby North Atlantic Right Whales Spotted

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Calving Season Ends, but No Baby North Atlantic Right Whales Spotted

Article excerpt

Calving season ends, but no baby whales spotted

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HALIFAX - Most scientists have wrapped up their work scanning waters off the eastern U.S. coast for endangered North Atlantic right whales, capping off a dismal season that has seen an unprecedented number of deaths and no new calves added to the plummeting population.

They are developments that have dismayed marine biologists who have spent decades rebuilding a species once hunted to near extinction.

But, a team of researchers in Cape Cod Bay is holding out hope that right whale calves could still turn up in the nursery if, as they suspect, there is another calving ground that has so far eluded science.

"I'm kind of inclined to think we will see a calf or several here," Charles 'Stormy' Mayo of the Center for Coastal Studies said from his office in Provincetown, Mass. "My belief is that these right whales may be calving in a slightly different location than the areas that we have known them to calve in before."

Mayo cautions that there is yet no science backing up the suspicion, but says three right whale calves were spotted in their usual calving grounds off Georgia and Florida last year. A short time later, five appeared in Cape Cod Bay, suggesting there is another area where females could be having their babies.

His crews will continue surveying the bay inside the hook of land, where many of the world's remaining 450 whales tend to gather in May before heading north to Canadian waters to feed. He said 109 individuals have already turned up in the area, slightly ahead of schedule.

Mayo and other marine mammal experts say the whales could be altering their calving habitats, much like they did with their feeding grounds.

Researchers only recently discovered that in addition to the Bay of Fundy, right whales were going to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to feed. They identified the habitat after realizing about five years ago that known whales weren't turning up in the bay as expected. They turned their attention to the Gulf and found clusters of the whales in the area.

"We know they have plastic pattern of habitat selection and we know what happened in the Gulf of St. Lawrence," Mayo said. …

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