Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Right Whales: Steady as We Go

More Information

Ship Strike Rule

Large Whale Take Reduction Plan

New Smartphone Apps to Help Marine Mammals
NOAA Fisheries unveils two new smartphone apps, Dolphin & Whale 911 and See & ID Dolphins & Whales, which help citizens report sick, injured or dead marine mammals and identify and view marine mammals responsibly in the wild. Read more...

Around mid-November, endangered North Altantic right whales travel south for the winter, making their way down the Atlantic coast of the United States. Marine biologists with NOAA Fisheries, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission remind all boaters that North Atlantic right whale calving season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April—these whales are on the move and precautions should be taken. Read more...

Endangered Species Act Turns 40
40 Species for 40 Years of the ESA
Celebrating the Endangered Species Act
North Atlantic Right Whales

North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered whales in the world, with an estimated 450 to 500 in existence. But, things are looking up for this troubled giant. Thanks to protections under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, a number of whale conservation actions, and relatively high birth rates, the right whale population is growing at a rate of 2.6 percent annually. This recovery is still fragile, so NOAA Fisheries is committed to staying on course to protect the right whale.

Go Slow, Avoid a Blow

Given right whales’ time spent near the coast in areas with high vessel concentrations, one of the principal threats to their recovery is collisions with ships. Because of this threat, NOAA Fisheries is renewing a rule meant to reduce the threat of vessel collisions with right whales. The rule, first published in October 2008, was set to expire this year. It established a 10 knot speed limit for vessels at certain times and locations along the U.S. eastern seaboard, where right whales feed, migrate, or reproduce.

Studies show the vessel speed restrictions are working and should continue. There have been no known right whale ship strike deaths in or near the vessel speed restriction areas since the rule was put into effect. A NOAA Fisheries supported study of more than 100,000 vessel trips during the first 4 years of the rule concluded the speed restrictions reduced the probability of a lethal ship strike by 80 to 90 percent. Vessel masters, pilot associations, and the shipping industry are following these speed restrictions and making a significant contribution to the recovery of right whales. Even better—they are doing so at a cost that is a small percentage of the total value of goods and services provided by commercial maritime industries.

NOAA Fisheries will continue to explore ways to improve the conservation value of this rule while minimizing its economic effects by assessing mariner response to  these speed restrictions and the rates of whale fatalities. Learn more about the ship strike rule.

Protecting Right Whales from Entanglement

Another big threat to right whales is incidental entanglement in commercial fishing gear. NOAA Fisheries and fishermen have been working together to reduce this threat with our cooperative Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. The great thing about the plan is that it can evolve as we learn more about why whales become entangled and how we can modify fishing practices to reduce entanglement. Some of the methods we have used so far include:

40 Years of Benefits

The special protections our society enshrined in the Endangered Species Act 40 years ago don’t just benefit the right whale. NOAA Fisheries and our partners are working to recover 92 other marine species listed under the ESA.

Join us in celebrating the ESA 40th Anniversary.