ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROFILE

PROTECTION STATUS: Endangered

YEAR PLACED ON LIST: 1970 (as northern right whale, single species with North Pacific right whale); 2008 (as distinct species)

CRITICAL HABITAT: Coastal Florida and Georgia (Sebastian Inlet, Florida to the Altamaha River, Georgia), the Great South Channel (east of Cape Cod), and Massachusetts and Cape Cod bays; designated 1994 for northern right whale. Northeast feeding areas in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank region and southeast calving grounds from North Carolina to Florida; designated 2016 for northern right whale.

RECOVERY PLAN: Original 1991, revised 2004

RANGE: Sightings are rare, with the highest observed concentrations of whales occurring off Florida, Georgia, and New England coastal waters, depending on the season

THREATS: Collisions with ships, entanglement in commercial fishing gear, noise pollution and explosives testing from military exercises, pollution, habitat degradation, and climate change

POPULATION TREND: Fewer than 400 individuals exist in the western Atlantic population. The eastern Atlantic population is believed to be functionally extinct. Estimates show that the North Atlantic right whale could be extinct in as few as 100 years without dramatic intervention to reverse current trends.

North Atlantic right whale photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA research permit #15488.