A right whale mother swims next to her calf, as seen from the research vessel “Shearwater”, during a Right Whale research expedition with the Center for Coastal Studies (NOAA permit 25740-01) in Cape Cod Bay, off the coast of Massachusetts, on April 5, 2022. Scientists are studying the endangered whale population that is at risk for rope entanglements. – After four hours at sea and some false hopes, the Shearwater makes its first sighting: Three North Atlantic right whales, including an elusive mother-calf pair, on a bright spring day in Cape Cod Bay.

The captain cuts the engines and a trio of marine biologists swing into action, reeling off photos and noting markings that can be used to identify individuals and track injuries — vital conservation work for a critically endangered-species that today numbers just 336 individuals.

(Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP)