Right Whale Discovered Pregnant in August, Spotted with New Calf

Amid the growing concern that endangered North Atlantic right whales could be creeping toward extinction due to their declining numbers, every winter calving season offers a chance for hope.

On January 2, 2020, Harmonia, an 18-year-old right whale who was discovered to be pregnant this summer by the New England Aquarium right whale team, was spotted off Cumberland Island, GA, with her newborn calf.

An aerial survey team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission saw the pair just over 7 miles from shore while doing routine surveys of the right whale calving ground. This is optimistic news for the right whale population, which now stands at about 411.

“Every calf gives us hope, and seeing Harmonia, who we’ve watched grow from a calf to a healthy mom, with her third calf is particularly exciting. The future of this species rests on the backs of dependable reproductive females like her,” said Philip Hamilton, a Research Scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

Harmonia, right whale Catalog #3101, was sighted with her newborn calf about 7 nautical miles off Cumberland Island, GA, on January 2, 2020. Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA permit 20556-01

For 40 years, the Aquarium’s right whale team has extensively researched and tracked the endangered North Atlantic right whales with the photo-identification catalog it manages. The scientific team monitors the whales’ arrival at breeding and feeding grounds, registering new calves, death rates, and measuring changes in stress and reproductive hormones through scat and blow, or whale’s breath, research developed by the team. The team collaborates with fishermen on new techniques to reduce deadly entanglements in fishing gear, and it works with lawmakers locally and nationally to lobby for protections for the whales.

On Aug. 7, the team collected a sample of Harmonia’s feces in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where she was sighted with two other whales. An analysis of her hormones indicated that she was pregnant. By Nov. 23, she was spotted off the coast of Florida, the first right whale spotted in the Southeast this winter, exciting researchers with hopes that she had migrated to warmer waters to give birth. She was seen again on Dec. 10 off the coast of Georgia by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium aerial survey team.

Harmonia is well-known and well-studied by the New England Aquarium team. She was born in 2001 to parents, Aphrodite and Velcro, who are both thought to still be alive. Harmonia also has at least six half-brothers and two half-sisters. Harmonia has previously given birth to two calves – one in 2009 and another in 2016. Her first calf barely made it past its first year before being struck by a vessel and killed during the summer of 2010. Harmonia’s second calf, “Gully,” is still alive but was discovered in 2018 suffering another major threat to right whales – entanglement in fishing gear, leaving severe wounds and a deep gouge in its head.

As the right whale team has developed its health assessment techniques using blow and scat samples from free-swimming right whales, Harmonia has been an invaluable test case. The team was able to gather two blow samples and one fecal sample from Harmonia in 2015. Those samples showed elevated levels of reproductive hormones, characteristic of pregnancy, and she subsequently gave birth to Gully 10 months later. That finding was pivotal because it was the first proof that a sample of exhaled blow could effectively detect pregnancy.

Harmony on December 10, 2019. Photo: Clearwater Marine Aquarium, taken under NOAA Permit #20556-01.

Looking back on Harmonia’s history, she was one of a handful of calves from 2001 who stayed with her mom into her second year – unlike most calves who are weaned by the end of their first year. Harmonia also gave birth to her first calf three years earlier than average and was pregnant by the age of 7. She’s had two suction cup tags attached to her – the first at age 2 so researchers could understand how she behaved underwater, and the second to assess how she and her calf vocalized. Her blubber thickness has been measured, and she’s been observed by a special aerial camera designed to provide accurate length and width measurement – all in addition to her involvement in the feces and blow hormone studies.

Harmonia has been seen by the Aquarium right whale team in the Bay of Fundy many times and almost every year up until 2011, but has not been seen there since. Due to ocean changes brought on by climate change, few right whales use the Bay of Fundy now. Harmonia is one of the 130 or so right whales that have adapted and now feed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where she has been seen every year since 2015.

“Harmonia” waves her fluke around in the air. Photo: Monica Zani, New England Aquarium/Canadian Whale Institute.




NOTE CHANGE OF DATE AND PLACE: On December 3, from 2:30-3:50pm at Veteran’s Hall B, Ellison Campus Center (place to be determined) Salem State University, Dr. Andrea Bogomoloni, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Chair of the Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium will speak on “Seals & Society: Biology, Ecology and Interactions in New England.” Her talk will review the history of seals in New England, examine their roles in the ecosystem and as ocean health sentinels, and discuss seal-fishery interactions.

Harbor Seal Gloucester

On Monday, November 19, from 2:30-3:50pm in Veteran’s Hall B, Ellison Campus Center, Salem State University, there will be a panel on “Wildlife in Peril.” Panelists include Andrea Zeren (Psychology) who will highlight the plight of elephants globally; Jack Clarke (Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, Mass Audubon) who will describe current threats to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act; and Mendy Garron (NOAA) who will discuss the plight of large whale species (particularly right whales). All three speakers also will discuss efforts to protect wildlife.

Snowy Egrets are just one of myriad species of birds that have been saved from the brink of extinction by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act.

These events are sponsored by the Salem State University Human Dimensions of Wildlife Unit at the Bates Center for Public Affairs and the Political Science Department and are open to the public. For more information contact, Jennifer Jackman at .

Off Shore Road on Sunday

On Shore Road on Sunday the whales gave us all a thrill.  It was amazing to watch and listen to the people watching the whales.  There were claps and lots of looks of awe.  NOAA reminds boaters to say far away from these beautiful animals.  As you can see there was a yellow boat way to close.

People watching whales from Cape Ann Motor Inn, Long Beach, Rocks

Cape Ann Marina guests can see whales from their rooms! Back home from work and spotted three whales immediately which means that some of the six right whales have been feeding more than ten hours HERE. It’s thrilling! I even saw one head to Salt Island and back. They check in and circle together. Two are lingering off Long Beach on the Gloucester side. When two and three are gliding along, stepped back one by one nearly together in a line, and moving fast, the legendary sea serpent stories did come to mind.

Nearly as much fun are the clusters of whale watchers at the waters edge like schooner race photos of yore. I added a short video with Long Beach cottages and the stretch of sand in the background to give another relational vantage.

Right whale watching from shores Gloucester MA_20180504_102716 ©c ryan (7)

Long Beach video to show relation to sand and seawall–they’re further out now with tide coming in

early morning post began 6:30am

Right whale watching from shores Gloucester MA©c ryan_20180504_103632.jpg

What a show! Whales so close you can hear the blows Gloucester, MA

five right whales visible from shore Gloucester MA©c ryan they are so close you can hear the blows_20180504_084448


They’re making a bunch of noise!

2 min video below *apologies for the hand held zoom–trying to share some of this natural wonder

4 whales in this one

Prior post– WHALES 5+ feeding between Salt Island & Long Beach visible from shore now! #GloucesterMA

WHALES 5+ feeding between Salt Island & Long Beach visible from shore now! #GloucesterMA

Update: we spotted five or six right whales at 6:30AM just off the shore between Salt Island and Thacher. They remained feeding in the area for 11+ hours. Two crossed past the Rockport side of Long Beach, and back again. They were surprisingly fast at times! Post was updated during the day with more photos and videos. I hope some photogs with professional lens will be sharing soon.

five right whales visible from shore Gloucester MA May 4 2018©c ryan still from short video.png

30 seconds 4 right whales out of 6 off Gloucester Ma, Long Beach, Twin Lights in backgrounds



1 min video tracking 1 of 6 right whales





How close? This close: here’s another image from an FOB whales out her window!

FOB sent photo in to Good morning gloucester  whales out window IMG_8894.JPG

Is this Atlantic right whale detection app active?

Second post- close up

Third post after work– 3 whales still feeding here 11+ hours later!

Another email from NOAA

Just received another email from NOAA.  Very exciting

Thank you so much Donna, we really appreciate it!  We directed an aerial survey over that location today based on your report and we found seven right whales in that vicinity, all of which we were able to photo document for research purposes.


Thanks again!



Amanda Maderia, director of education programs at Maritime Gloucester writes, “Confirming Iain’s comments about believing the whales seen off our coast are likely Right Whales: We have observed some incredible plankton tows the last two days. From a few passes from our docks with our net, the sample has looked pretty clear most of the winter, but as you can see from yesterday’s sample, it looks almost blood red thick with Calenoid copepods, a huge food source for the North Atlantic Right Whale.

Looking at the overhead shot, the bucket on the left is from our plankton tow, and a close up of that to follow.  This is what one looks like under the microscope.
The plankton haul was discovered by Waring School students who come to Maritime Gloucester once a week for the spring semester.  They use it as their field station for John Wigglesworth’s oceans and climate course.
Wednesday morning, May 16th, students will be having a poster presentation of their work in the Gorton Gallery at Maritime Gloucester from 10:30-11:30.
We welcome and encourage public to attend!!
 Right Whale Migration Route
The first photo was taken from Race Point in Province town, on April 21, 2017, almost a year to the day of the Gloucester sightings.


Very sadly, it appears the North Atlantic Right Whale yearling found near Barnstable died from blunt trauma.

“Preliminary findings of bruising were consistent with blunt trauma,” according to NOAA Fisheries, which oversaw the necropsy. “There was no evidence of entanglement. Final diagnosis is pending ancillary laboratory tests that can take weeks or months.”

The young whale was a female, and was approximately 27 feet long. She has been identified as a one-year old offspring of Eg#4094 from the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog born in 2016.”

According to the Cape Cod Times, “No. 4094 was born in 2010 and was nicknamed Mayport for her exploration of waters near Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida. She was slightly younger than most right whales are when they start to birth. Her yearling had been seen last summer in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the northeast coast of Canada, an area the species has been occupying more and more recently.”

There are only five hundred of these magnificent mammals remaining on earth. Every single whale is important. The utmost caution is advised when viewing the whales. Boaters are urged to travel slowly and to keep at least 500 yards or 1500 feet away, and this includes kayakers, paddle boarders, swimmers, and rowers too.Right Whale and her calf, photographed on April 14th at Cape Cod Bay by the Center for Coastal Studies aerial team.

Read the full statement from NOAA here.


Right Whales and Laughing Gulls

Go see the Right Whales! Hundreds are currently off the coast of Provincetown and you can easily view them from the beaches. I had an idea of where best to see the Right Whales after reading several bulletins and articles but very fortunately, we ran into Schooner Adventure Captain Stefan Edick on Provincetown’s main Commercial Street. He had seen them earlier that morning and suggested exactly where to go. After having a quick bite at a favorite lunch spot, Spiritus, we followed Stefan’s advice and headed straight to Herring Cove. There they were, feeding about 1500 feet or so from shore, dozens and dozens. We stayed for awhile and then checked out Race Point Beach. Here they were even a bit nearer the shore, by the Old Harbor Life Saving Station. Perhaps we saw Hundreds, and it was a beautiful sight!! Right Whales feed along the surface of the water, spout lots of snot, and tip their tails when diving. The whales were too far off shore for my camera’s range to get any spectacular shots but it was super fun nonetheless. Also feeding with the whales were Northern Gannets, Laughing Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Herring Gulls.

These two were swimming together for about half an hour; perhaps they are a mother and calf.

Five at once!

If home this week for school vacation, a day trip to Provincetown to see the Right Whales would make for a wonderful adventure. I don’t think the Center for Coastal Studies is open to visitors at this time of year, but many of the shops are open (including the always interesting Shell Shop). We had dinner at the bar at a very favorite restaurant, Fanizza’s, with lovely views of the beach (there isn’t a bad view from any seat at Fanizza’s). Our fresh seafood dinners were fabulous. Tom had the cod, I had whole belly clams, and they were the perfect end to a perfect day.

A pair of seals swam very close to the beach; they appeared puzzled by so many folks watching the whales and at that, seemed to decide not to come ashore.

Right Whales could still be seen after sundown.

Rare White Whale Calf Found Dead

John Atkinson Checks In From the Southern Hemisphere


hey joey, don’t say we were not thinking of everyone in beautiful gloucester. we finished our aerial photographic survey of the endangered southern right whales and got a few good shots! in one of the attached photo is of the pilot oscar, me, and science officer/camera asssistant marcos standing by our airplane. second shot of whale breach we got in the last hour of our survey  we all send greetings to everyone in gloucester! john atkinson


chickity check it! an ocean alliance/john atkinson blog note from argentina

John is on his way to Argentina to particpate in his 19th annual aerial survey of the endangered southern right whales that gather each year in the waters near Peninsula Valdes to mate and give birth to their calves

Click the picture to check it out-