Subject: Right Whale:First sighting of right whale (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 12:10:11 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 97 00:50:00 GMT 
Subject: First sighting of right whale

First sighting of right whale calf

   ANCHORAGE, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A chance encounter by marine biologists
with a pod of whales in Bristol Bay has resulted in the first confirmed
sighting of a right whale calf in the North Pacific ocean in 150 years.
   The Anchorage Daily News reports Tuesday that when scientist Pam
Goddard photgraphed the pod last summer she had no idea she was
recording such an unusual scene.
   It wasn't until several weeks later that Goddard showed the pictures
to Dave Rugh, a biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory.
   The two soon realized that this was no ordinary whale sighting. The
animals in the pictures were right whales, the most endangered of all
the great whales.
   Hunted to the edge of extinction by commercial whalers, fewer than
200 of the animals are thought to remain in the entire North Pacific.
   The photos have since spurred optimism among whale researchers that
the species may be returning.
   The calf wasn't the only thing unusual about the pod. Goddard's
photos, backed up by those taken by others aboard the Arcturus, showed
four right whales together. No group of more than two right whales has
been reported in the region in the past 30 years.
   For many reasons, right whales were hunted for hundreds of years, and
intensely during the late 1800s. They are slow swimmers. They have high
oil content and a lot of baleen. They don't sink when killed. They are
docile and don't actively avoid boats.
   Whalers decimated the right whales in the North Atlantic and then in
the North Pacific. The species has been protected against most hunting
since 1935.