An endangered species of whale is experiencing a mini-baby boom in New England waters, researchers on Cape Cod tell the AP. The North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest species of whale on the planet, numbering only about 411. But the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., said Friday its aerial survey team spotted two mom and calf pairs in Cape Cod Bay a day earlier. That brings the number of calves seen in New England waters alone this year to three. That's big news because the whale's population has been falling, and no calves were seen last year. In all, seven right whale calves have been seen so far this year; these three are among those seven, but experts are encouraged that they successfully made the journey from the Florida-Georgia coast where they were born in the winter to their feeding grounds in New England.
The whales make what one expert calls a "perilous" journey in the early spring to more protected waters in New England, including the Gulf of Maine, a body of water that touches Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada. Cape Cod Bay is part of the Gulf of Maine and is a critically important feeding ground. The animals often feed close to shore, providing watchers on land "unbeatable views of one of the rarest of marine mammals," the Center for Coastal Studies said in a statement. It's illegal to get within 1,500 feet of the animals without a federal research permit. "Every calf is precious," Francine Kershaw of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in a blog, per CNN. "The seven born so far this year offer an emblem of hope that North Atlantic right whales can bounce back if given the chance."
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