AMAMI-OSHIMA, Kagoshima Prefecture--A local research group has spotted an endangered whale species off Amami-Oshima island in southern Japan for the first time in 17 years, a sighting that may be attributed to a ban on the commercial hunting of whales.
The group, called the Amami whale and dolphin research association, confirmed the sighting of a North Pacific right whale on Jan. 28.
Katsuki Oki, who heads the association, said group members spotted the mammal shortly before 2 p.m. in the East China Sea about 2.5 kilometers off the Miyakozaki cape in Yamato, located to the west of central Amami-Oshima, while they were studying humpback whales.
“The number of right whales may be recovering thanks to the prohibition of commercial hunting,” Oki, 43, said. “We will continue to watch carefully.”
He said the members spotted the whale, about 10 meters long, spouting a column of spray from its blowhole.
When the group moved closer to the whale, it breached, patted the sea surface with its pectoral fins and spouted three times before it dove into the sea, throwing its tail fluke into the air. The spray first looked V-shaped, but then turned into a heart shape.
The group in the boat judged the whale as a North Pacific right whale from several “humps” on its head, the spray and the shape of the pectorals.
The whales are designated an endangered species on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The massive species is said to be extremely rare and endangered. One was last observed in 1997 in the sea off Uken of Amami-Oshima.
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