Third baby right whale spotted, giving conservationists hope

A third right whale calf has been spotted off the southeastern United States, giving conservationists hope for the jeopardized species this winter.

North Atlantic right whales number only about 411, and have been plagued by high mortality and poor reproduction in recent years. Not a single baby right whale was born in the winter of 2017-2018.

Several of the calves were spotted last year, and this year there have been at least three. The New England Aquarium in Boston said Sunday that Harmonia, an adult right whale known to researchers, has been seen recently off Cumberland Island, Georgia, with a newborn.

The right whales are often seen close to the New England coast in the spring, when they head north to feed. They were hunted close to extinction during the whaling era because they floated when killed and yielded lots of oil — making them the “right” whale to hunt.