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Only six right whale calves spotted; one not expected to live

Only six northern right whale calves, one of which has been severely injured and is not expected to live, have been found in Georgia and Florida coastal waters this year, researchers said Tuesday.

"It's been a pretty disappointing year," said Chris Slay, a researcher with the New England Aquarium, which has been studying right whales in Georgia for 10 years.

Researchers had hoped for 10 to 15 cow-calf pairs this year, Slay said. One of the six calves appears to have been struck by a boat and injured so severely it is not expected to survive, he said.

Last year six calves were born off Georgia and north Florida. One died of apparent natural causes and one was struck by a boat and killed.

Researchers based their prediction for a dozen new calves on birth cycles of the right whales, which are Georgia's state marine mammal and an endangered species. Only 350 are believed to survive.

Right whales give birth every three or four years, Slay said.

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