A North Atlantic right whale… in France!

  • Mogul a été vu en mars au large des États-Unis et en France en juin! © New England Aquarium
    11 / 07 / 2019 Par Marie-Ève Muller

    A reader has reported a video of an unusual-looking whale off the coast of Brittany, France. After validation with experts at the New England Aquarium, the organization that manages the North Atlantic right whale photo-ID catalogue, it turns out that it is a male right whale nicknamed Mogul. It is seen surface feeding, probably devouring copepods, the right whale’s favourite prey. This is the second observation of Mogul in the eastern Atlantic.

    Mogul was born in 2008 to the female Slalom. He is seen annually by researchers in US waters and the Bay of Fundy on the Canadian side, mostly in coastal habitats and in the company of other right whales. But in late July 2018, Mogul was photographed off Iceland by a whale-watching outfitter. Nevertheless, Mogul had been seen on April 21, 2018 off the coast of Massachusetts. He completed his trans-Atlantic trip in under three months. In March 2019, Mogul was back on the North American side of the Atlantic. Which means he crossed the ocean again this year to Europe at an unknown date.

    “Two things drive whale behaviour: food and reproduction.  He was seen feeding, or at least trying to, in the video. He did not look sick from what we could see from the body on the video. And in March, he seemed well,” explains Heather Pettis, one of the scientists at the New England Aquarium.

    Did he travel to France in search of food? Has he found enough food? The New England Aquarium team has not received any further sightings of Mogul since. Will we see him again in Europe in the coming months or years? It’s impossible to predict. Since 1986, a few right whales have been seen on the eastern side of the Atlantic, both in the Azores and in Norway. “It’s really rare to see a right whale in Europe,” confirms this expert.

    If you see a whale at sea, it’s important to keep your distance. “Photos or videos that the public sends us are very useful, but it is essential to maintain a safe distance from the whale. They are much larger than what can be seen on the surface, so for one’s own safety, as well as for the safety of those on board the boat, an appropriate distance should be maintained,” adds Heather Pettis.

    Dive deeper

    To learn more about Mogul in Iceland: A Rare Right Whale Sighting in Iceland (Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, 2018)

    Mogul’s page in the right whale photo-ID catalogue

    Right whales: what is happening in 2019 (Whales Online)