VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- An incredibly rare sighting of several North Atlantic right whales happened last week about 30 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.
While whale watching is not an uncommon activity in Virginia Beach, a group of tourists on Rudee Tours said they were left speechless by the sight about 20 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach Wednesday.
"We have the opportunity to see a lot of large whales species that are migrating through, with the humpback being the most common," Alexis Rabon, naturalist with Rudee Tours, told WTKR.
North Atlantic right whales, which are a critically endangered species, tend to be around 130,000 to 150,000 pounds, according to scientists at the Virginia Aquarium.
Researchers said the whales often feed on the surface of the water, but have not been seen near Virginia in more than a decade.
In fact, Rabon said the last sighting in the area was about 15 years ago.
"We get a chance to see them, form a connection with the animals, and that allows them to respect them and their homes and want to protect them the best way to conserve these species," Rabon said.
Because the whales are endangered, it is illegal for touring companies to approach them.
In fact, officials said their boats cannot come within 500 yards of the marine mammals.
We are up to 9 new right whales! Known mom, “Grand Teton” & known right whale #2420 were both seen with their new calves off FL yesterday. Grand Teton is approx. 40 y.o.-this is her 8th calf, #2420 is 27 y.o., this is her 5th calf.— NOAA Fish Southeast (@NOAAFish_SERO) January 12, 2021
Photo credit: @MyFWC NOAA permit #20556-01 pic.twitter.com/bBwS7JA5PG
Virginia Beach among best spots in US for whale watching
Condé Nast Traveler recently named Virginia Beach one of the best places in the United States for whale watching.
Humpback whales are the most common species to be found in the area. They are usually seen passing through in January or February.
Full list of cities Condé Nast Traveler profiled as best places for spotting whales:
- Santa Barbara, California
- Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
- Provincetown, Massachusetts
- Seward, Alaska
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- San Juan Islands, Washington
- Bar Harbor, Maine
- Cape May, New Jersey