Two new North Atlantic right whale calves have been spotted next to their mothers off the St. Johns River entrance and the coast of Florida last week, according to the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI).
The first pair, “Harmony” and her newborn calf, were spotted approximately 11 nautical miles off the St. Johns River entrance on Jan. 24.
The FWRI said they were spotted near the busy recommended shipping lanes for Jacksonville Port Authority in Jacksonville, Fla.
Harmony is 19 years old, and according to the organization, this is her fourth calf. Her last calf was born in 2016.
On Jan. 25, “Halo” and her calf were sighted just beyond the surf in Crescent Beach, Fla., said FWRI. Halo is 15-years-old and was spotted with her second calf. Her last calf was born in 2014.
This mark the fifth and sixth North Atlantic right whale calves spotted so far this year, after the fourth was found on Jan. 9 off the coast of the United States injured, likely by a vessel.
“Many residents and visitors were able to watch these whales from the beach as they slowly travelled south along the shore,” the FWRI said on Facebook.
The organization said this is a “critical and vulnerable time for right whale mothers to bond with their calves.”
They recommend that “vessels 65 feet or longer must slow to 10 knots or less” in areas where whales are known to be spotted. Vessels “less than 65 feet are also capable of severely injuring and killing right whales, particularly calves.”
-With files from Global’s Alexander Quon