Rare whale spotted in Gulf

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - On Monday, a rare species of whale was spotted by a couple in their condo high above the world's most beautiful beaches.

The couple often takes pictures of marine life they see in the water, but they never expected to capture an image of something so rare.

It was a normal day in Denise and Neal Hart's beachfront condo when Denise saw something odd in the Gulf.

"I see this big splash like a pool of dolphins had been in there stirring up the ocean. Then I saw it surfaced and I knew it wasn't dolphins this was something crazy," said Denise Hart.

"We've been to Alaska before and have seen humpback whales. When she first spotted it and we came out we thought, 'Lord, that's a whale. It's so big.' It didn't have the characteristic dorsal fin that you see on other [whales]. Once we did some research we found it, this whale, it's one of its characteristics, no dorsal fin," said Neal Hart.

They quickly grabbed their camera and snapped some photos of the rare marine mammal, an endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

"I didn't know they even came to this area," said Denise Hart.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, North Atlantic Right Whales remain critically endangered and there are less than 500 of them. NOAA reports during winter the majority of North Atlantic Right Whales are found in southeastern coastal waters where calving takes place.

"We didn't know the rarity of this. The fact that it is in danger gives it special meaning now to have seen something. Honestly, the way you read about it, what you see happening to this population it's really scary," said Neal Hart.

If you spot a rare North Atlantic Right Whale NOAA encourages you to call 877-WHALE-HELP.

According to NOAA, the last sighting of a North Atlantic Right Whale in the Gulf of Mexico was in 2006. NOAA officials tell us they are very appreciative of the Harts for reaching out to them with this rare sighting.