#14: Exciting right whale sighting in the Azores!

On January 5, 2009 at 16:40 a North Atlantic Right Whale was observed off the Azores by biologists from the University of the Azores Dept. of Oceanography and Fisheries (Monica Silva, Irma Cascão, Maria João Cruz, Rui Guedes, and Norberto Serpa), as well as a biologist from Whale Watch Azores (Lisa Steiner). The observers noted that this was the first confirmed sighting of a right whale in the Azores since 1888!

Whale #3270 seen south of Pico Island in the Azores. Photo by Lisa Steiner- Whale Watch Azores.

This was exciting news on its own, but it became more exciting when I was able to match the whale to one in the Catalog from the western North Atlantic. Before the match, we had no idea whether this would be an animal from our side of the ocean, or perhaps a remnant from a population that is believed to have last roamed the eastern Atlantic centuries ago.

Recent sightings of Catalog #3270

The whale is a female, Catalog #3270, that had last been seen by Aquarium researchers in the Bay of Fundy on the 24th of September 2008. She is relatively new to the catalog with a first sighting in 2002 (See the Catalog for details) and we will be interested to see when and if she has her first calf.

Its amazing how exciting this work can be - even when sitting in front of a computer all day!




  1. Wow, this is exciting! Do you know if right whales were common in the Azores prior to 1888?

  2. Hi Liza! Thanks for the link on Collosities :)

    As to your question about the historical range of right whales, check out this quote:

    "The historical range of the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
    extended from the coasts off Florida and northwest Africa in the south to southern
    Greenland and the Barents Sea in the north. The species has a long history of
    exploitation in this area, starting with the Basque fishery in the eleventh century in
    the Bay of Biscay; this fishery later expanded until it reached the Newfoundland and
    Labrador coasts in the 15th century (Aguilar 1986)."

    MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE, 20(1):161-166 (January 2004)
    0 2004 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy

  3. You're very welcome! The RWAS blog is a joy to read. =)

    Thanks for the quote. It's great to see that at least one whale has been observed in the area, especially after being a historically exploited area. Hopefully you'll be seeing more in the future!