Right Whales Spotted Migrating Towards Central Florida Beaches

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – The first North Atlantic right whales of the 2018-2019 migration season to reach the Central Florida coast were spotted off of Daytona Beach, Florida on Sunday, December 30, 2018.

The group of three whales off Daytona Beach are all adults. But other groups of whales, including groups with moms and calves, are also making their way southward from North Florida waters.

Right whale sighting map January 4, 2019. Credit: NOAA’s Northeast Fishery Science Center

Right whales migrate every winter to the east coasts of Georgia and Florida, including Florida’s Space Coast.

From November 15 to April 15 each year, pregnant females migrate from their northern feeding grounds to the sheltered waters of the calving ground to give birth to their young.

Whalers labeled these animals “right whales” because they considered them the “right” whales to hunt. They swam slowly in coastal waters, floated when dead, and yielded large amounts of oil and baleen. Right whales had been hunted to near extinction when hunting was finally banned in 1935.

Right whales lack a dorsal fin. Instead, they have a large, flat back. When right whales breathe they produce a V-shaped blow that is often as high as 15 feet and is visible from a great distance.

These baleen-type whales feed on tiny zooplankton, measure up to 50 feet in length, and can weigh up to 140,000 pounds.

When Right Whales are active off Florida, speed restrictions of 10 knots apply to vessels 65 feet or greater in specific areas and times along the U.S. East Coast. It is illegal to approach right whales within 500 yards, according to NOAA.

How to report right whale sightings:

Report right whale sightings by calling the following numbers with an accurate location and description of the sighting: 1-888-97-WHALE (94253) or the FWC Wildlife Alert Program at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

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