From: Associated Press
Published January 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Endangered Whales Sighted off Texas Coast, Miles from Usual Winter Territory

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two endangered whales were spotted in the Corpus Christi Bay, well outside their typical winter territory of Florida and Georgia, authorities said.


A tanker pilot reported seeing the two Northern right whales, believed to be a mother and a calf, Monday after he thought he may have hit one of them.


Northern right whales spend the winter off Georgia and Florida and the summer in New England waters and north to the Bay of Fundy and Scotian Shelf, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.


"It's an absolute mystery how they got here," said Tony Amos, a research fellow at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.


Amos spotted the whales twice on Monday, first in the bay's ship channel and later near the Naval Station Ingleside, further out to sea, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.


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The whales have been listed as an endangered species since 1973, and the right whale population is thought to be at about 300.


Amos said he was skeptical when he first heard the report, because the whales are so rare. He photographed the whales to report them to federal officials that monitor them.


"It's a real thrill, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such a rare animal," he said. "But also we felt some concern because they shouldn't be where they are."


Amos said the calf appeared to be suckling, and it had two cuts on its back.


A spokesman said the U.S. Coast Guard had also responded to monitor the whale's condition. The Coast Guard was asking captains on the Corpus Christi Bay and surrounding areas to try to avoid the whales.


Right whales were depleted by commercial whaling, and their recovery has been hindered by injuries and deaths caused by through collisions with vessels or entanglement in fishing gear.


Source: Associated Press


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