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Endangered whale species experiencing mini baby boom off Massachusetts coast


In this Wednesday March 28, 2018 photo, the baleen is visible on a North Atlantic right whale as it feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. North Atlantic right whales are facing the threat of extinction within a generation, and the movement to preserve them is trying to come up with new solutions. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

One of the world’s most endangered species of whales is experiencing a mini baby boom.

Three mother and baby pairs of the North Atlantic right whale were spotted off the Massachusetts coast, researchers from the Center for Coastal Studies announced Friday.

The first mother and calf pair were spotted April 7 in Cape Cod Bay. Last Thursday, two more mother and calf pairs were spotted in the bay.

Mothers spotted on Thursday were identified as EgNo 4180 and EgNo 3317.

EgNo 4180 has been seen nearly every year by the CCS since 2010, making her at least nine years old. She was last spotted in April 2018 — although researchers had no idea she was pregnant at the time. Prior to when she was spotted by a Florida park ranger in February, researchers had no idea the whale was female, although researchers have now confirmed her gender.

EgNo 3317 was born in late 2002 to another whale that was also spotted this season in the Cape Cod Bay, but was not seen again until 2016 she gave birth to her last calf.

Only 450 of the North Atlantic right whale are estimated to remain, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The species was brought close to extinction by commercial whale hunting in the early 1890's, and has been listed as endangered since the 1970's.

North Atlantic right whales can live for up to 70 years. They can weigh up to 70 tons and grow up to 52 feet long.

Although whale hunting is no longer a threat, human interactions — including entanglement in fishing gear, ocean noise, climate and ecosystem change, vessel strikes, and disturbance from whale watching — pose the greatest risk to the species, the AA says.

It is illegal to come within 500 yards of a North Atlantic right whale without a Federal Research Permit, the CSS reminded Kayakers, boaters, paddle-boarders, swimmers and light aircraft and drone pilots. However, people can view the whales in close proximity with feedings that occur close to shore.