PROVINCETOWN (CBS) — North Atlantic right whales, one of the world’s rarest large mammals, visit Cape Cod Bay every winter and spring to feed on microscopic zooplankton blooms. On Monday, researchers at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) made the first right whale sighting in the area in 2020.

The endangered whales were spotted by an aerial surveillance team, and identified by the unique markings on their back, according to CCS. One was an adult of unknown sex that was first documented in 1994, and the other was a juvenile female born in 2015. Both whales were last seen in Cape Cod Bay during last year’s season.

CCS said their researchers identified 268 individual whales in Cape Cod Bay last year, more than half of the current population of just 400. At least 20 whales died due to ship strikes, entanglement and other unidentified causes between 2017 and 2018, they said.

(Photo Courtesy: Center for Coastal Studies)

“At least 30 right whale mortalities have occurred during the last three years, and only twelve calves have been born, so the population is under tremendous pressure,” said Charles “Stormy” Mayo, Senior Scientist at CCS. “The loss of even one breeding female is catastrophic. If we don’t step up our efforts to protect these incredibly rare animals they could become functionally extinct in our lifetime.”
For more information on CCS’s research and efforts to protest right whales, visit their website.