Exclusive: Clipper and her calf swim free of Sebastian Inlet
SEBASTIAN (CBS12) —
The adult female Right Whale named "Clipper" and her young 18-foot calf are free.
The pair swam out of the Sebastian Inlet at 12:33 p.m. Tuesday.
Federal and state wildlife officers with US Fish and Wildlife and Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with top university marine biologists from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers all spent the past two days focusing their efforts on the two critically-endangered whales coming too close to shore.
The two swam into the Sebastian Inlet Monday. They stayed in shallow water in the Indian River Lagoon.
CBS12 was the only local news station there to see the whales swim to freedom, cheered on by a crowd of more than one-thousand people at the Sebastian Inlet State Park for the rare whale watching opportunity.
The fear was the gentle giants could be in trouble if they moved north or south, deeper into the Lagoon.
FWC is tracking Atlantic Right whales as they come to Florida during the winter. But that's not all.
Here's a gallery of some of the other water creatures spotted off the Florida coastline.
"I mean to see a Right Whale is very rare to start with, and then to see one come in the inlet, it's just unbelievable," said Larry Herbert, a nature photographer.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists have been tracking the critically endangered whales, and named the mother "Clipper" for her clipped fin.
They believe the two are healthy and not in danger at this time. After swimming out of the Inlet, the pair headed north and were spotted by US Fish and Wildlife just off Melbourne Beach by 1 p.m. Tuesday.
"We don't think they're lost or disoriented," said NOAA spokesperson Allison Garrett "It's not entirely unusual for right whales to come into inlets/harbors."
But FWC officers who have been tracking Clipper say she's never come this far south, and not traveled into an inlet to date.
"She's normally in Maine or Northeast FloridaJacksonville," said Officer Lenny Salberg, with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "This is the first time we've had Clipper go into an inlet."
Clipper measures 48 feet and her calf is 18 feet long. Clipper is estimated to weigh close to 160,000 pounds.
"I came as soon as I heard," said Russell Metze, a nature photographer. "Well, the baby is pretty big, but yes, you can see the mother and the baby and they come up together every once-and-a-while and it's great."
Clipper and her baby are 2 of only 509 Right Whales left in the world. This is Clipper's first calf.