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Endangered right whale with calf off Juno Beach brings sightseers to pier

Fewer than 350 right whales exist, NOAA says
A right whale and her calf were spotted on Jan. 11, 2023, near the Juno Beach Pier.
Posted at 2:53 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 17:42:26-05

JUNO BEACH, Fla. — A right whale and her calf that were recently spotted off the Treasure Coast have made their way south to Palm Beach County.

The mother and calf were caught on camera near the Juno Beach Pier as Chopper 5 hovered over the scene just after noon Wednesday.

The rare sighting brought multiple people to the pier hoping to catch a glimpse.

Christal Blalock of Jupiter and her daughter Kaylin, 8, were among the crowds at the pier.

Blalock's husband spotted the whale on a web camera Wednesday morning.

"I'm like 'What?' You've got to be kidding me? So, we called all of our friends and we followed it all morning to the pier," Blalock said. "Super excited, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it like this in the wild."

Photographers also lined up to capture a memory.

"I've lived here since 1978, and this is the first time I've seen them off our coast," one photographer said.

Troy Faminial of Jupiter often operates his drone in the area but said this is probably his best video.

Christal Blalock was among the crowds at the Juno Beach Pier eager to get a glimpse of the right whale and her calf on Jan. 11, 2022.
Christal Blalock was among the crowds at the Juno Beach Pier eager to get a glimpse of the right whale and her calf on Jan. 11, 2022.

"I always fly here during sunset, but I've never taken a video like that," Faminial said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers were patrolling the coastline all day, keeping watch and making sure everyone kept their distance.

North Atlantic right whales have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The latest estimates suggest there are fewer than 350 right whales remaining, with fewer than 100 breeding females.

Commercial whalers hunted North Atlantic right whales to the brink of extinction by the early 1890s.

Right whales are currently on the move along the east coast, heading south for the winter where they give birth. They advise everyone to give them 500 yards of space and simply leave them alone.

Boaters in and around inlet areas are being asked to reduce their speeds to 10 knots or less.

NOAA said on their website that researchers so far have identified 11 live calves this calving season.

If you see a right whale in trouble, continue to give the animal space and contact trained responders at 877-WHALE-HELP. If it is safe, take photos and video to share with responders.