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Blue Whale and Endangered: Rare Whale Seen Off Maine

Oct 01, 2015 06:50 PM EDT
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A blue whale, the planet's largest animal and considered endangered as a species, was recently seen near Bar Harbor, Maine. A whale watch tour spotted the blue whale, the first time the operation had seen one in its 33-year history in the area, as the Mt. Desert Islander newspaper reported.

Most whales in this species reach 80-90 feet, and they are estimated at 8,000-9,000 in the world, according to the Marine Mammal Center in California. 

A naturalist named Jessica Damon was on the trip, taking photos for Allied Whale's research. She took shots of the whale, and researchers identified it as B353, which was first seen in the St. Lawrence in 2000. It's possible to identify blue whales by patterns on the body side, the newspaper reported.

After seeing the photos, Michael Fischbach, Great Whale Conservancy (GWC)'s executive director, called the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS), in Quebec. He noted that that organization curates the northwest Atlantic blue whale catalog. This includes 350 blue whale individuals, out of those worldwide, as NOAA said on its website. 

An adjunct professor at nearby College of the Atlantic, Jill Weber, had been teaching a botany class but went to look at the whale. She said later, according to the Mt. Desert Islander, "Even as a plant person, when I saw that thing, the largest animal on earth, it was just so moving. When it spouted, we were inhaling the air that it had exhaled. I thought, ‘Why am I lucky enough to be here?"

The whale watch group has also seen sperm whales recently; the company's workers have seen only six sperm whales in its 33-year operating history.

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