North Atlantic Right Whales | Oceana

North Atlantic Right Whales

Saving Right Whales from Extinction

The Campaign

Oceana seeks to reduce threats to North Atlantic right whales, including entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with boats.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered large whales on the planet. There are 38 North Atlantic right whales that have been confirmed dead since 2017 in the United States and Canada. Scientists estimate that even a single human-caused North Atlantic right whale death a year threatens the species’ chances of recovery. Whaling decimated the North Atlantic right whale population before it was banned in 1935. They were named for being the “right” whale to hunt because they were often found near shore, swim slowly and tend to float when killed. Now the North Atlantic right whale is again on the brink of extinction mostly due to threats from ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. At normal operating speeds, ships cannot maneuver to avoid North Atlantic right whales, putting the whales at great risk of strikes, which can cause deadly injuries from blunt force trauma or cuts from the propellers. Additionally, a jungle of roughly one million fishing lines sprawls across the whales’ migration routes, calving, and feeding areas in the U.S. and Canada. These ropes have been seen wrapped around North Atlantic right whales’ mouths, fins, tails and bodies, and cut into the whales’ flesh, which can lead to life-threatening infections. Emerging threats like seismic airgun blasting, a process used to search for oil and gas deep below the seafloor, put the species at even greater risk. Today, only about 356 North Atlantic right whales remain, including a mere 70 breeding females. To prevent extinction, the whales must be protected from boat strikes and entanglements in fishing gear. Oceana’s campaign works to protect these whales from extinction by working towards requiring ships to slow down and removing vertical fishing lines from the water.

What Oceana Does

What We Do


Oceana campaigns to pressure the U.S. and Canadian governments to work together to prevent North Atlantic right whales from going extinct by addressing both the threat of fishing gear entanglement and ship strikes.



Our Approach


With teams on-the-ground in both countries, Oceana is calling on the U.S. and Canada to reduce the amount of rope used in fixed gear fisheries; Modify fishing gear and practices to reduce the likelihood and severity of entanglements; implement effective fisheries management areas that remove threats when North Atlantic right whales are present; Provide long-term funding and capacity building for research, monitoring and risk reduction; enhance fisheries monitoring and require public tracking of fishing vessels; enact seasonal speed restrictions in areas where North Atlantic right whales are known to frequent; implement short-term restrictions in additional areas when whales are detected; Expand and strengthen response networks comprising researchers, environmental organizations, industry groups and stakeholders, and government decision-makers to help manage the crisis and start rebuilding the species. Oceana depends on public support to ensure these measures are adopted, before it’s too late.


Take Action

If we don’t act fast, we could see a large whale species go extinct in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in centuries. The U.S. and Canadian governments must stand united in efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales from collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear. Tell your federal government officials to take immediate action to protect North Atlantic right whales from extinction. Speak up now, before these iconic whales are gone forever.


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