Right whale, calf exit Sebastian Inlet

Endangered whales spotted lingering before swimming out to ocean

A local surfer paddles out for some waves while next to a right whale at Sebastian Inlet on Feb.6.
A local surfer paddles out for some waves while next to a right whale at Sebastian Inlet on Feb.6. (Ryan Clapper/Gulfster.com)

An endangered North Atlantic right whale and her calf lingered for a second day in Sebastian Inlet on Tuesday, then swam back out into the ocean, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

On Tuesday morning, the two whales were still inside the inlet, near the mouth of Indian River Lagoon. But by the afternoon, they had returned to sea. No one's quite sure which way they're heading.

By boat, officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission kept oncoming boats from getting too close to the endangered whales.

People must stay at least 500 yards from right whales, or risk fines.

The right whale calving season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April. Whales swim down the Atlantic coast to give birth to their calves.

Every winter pregnant right whales swim more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to waters of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida.

Right whales are dark with no dorsal fin and often swim slowly at or just below the water's surface.

Right whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. To lessen risk of collisions between the whales and boats, federal law requires vessels 65 feet long and greater to slow to 10 knots or less in Seasonal Management Areas along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. That includes the calving and nursery area in the southeastern U.S.

Biologists refer to the female whale as "Clipper," because of her fins is clipped.

Scientists from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution also monitored the situation.