December 1, 1970 – The northern right whale was listed as an endangered species.

June 3, 1994 – The National Marine Fisheries Service formally designated critical habitat for the northern right whale.

December 12, 2006 – In response to Center litigation, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a status review confirming that the North Pacific right whale should be defined as a species separate from the North Atlantic right whale. The Fisheries Service also concluded that both species are under serious threat of extinction.

March 6, 2008 – The Fisheries Service officially defined the North Pacific right whale and North Atlantic right whale as two distinct species. The reclassification allowed for enhanced protections of both species.

August 25, 2008 – The National Marine and Fisheries Service proposed speed and path restrictions for seafaring vessels in an effort to protect the North Atlantic right whale from deadly ship-strike accidents.

September 16, 2009 – The Center and allies filed a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service to help struggling North Atlantic right whales by expanding their critical habitat to include vital areas used for foraging, calving, and migration.

March 31, 2009 – The Obama administration announced a new offshore oil-drilling plan that would open North Atlantic right whale habitat to drilling.

May 25, 2010 – The Center filed a lawsuit to force a response by the National Marine Fisheries Service to our 2009 petition to expand critical habitat for the whale.

October 6, 2010 – The Fisheries Service announced it would indeed expand critical habitat protections for the whale.

June 28, 2012 – The Center and allies filed a legal petition seeking additional ship speed limits in North Atlantic right whale habitat. The petition asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to extend the existing 10-knot speed limit on the Atlantic coast beyond its December 2013 expiration date and to expand the areas and times when ship speed limits apply to avoid collisions that kill endangered whales.

June 5, 2013 – Following the Center's petition, a National Marine Fisheries Service proposal to keep existing speed limits along the U.S. East Coast to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, extending the speed limit beyond its planned expiration date. The speed rule, which requires vessels 65 feet in length and greater to slow to 10 knots (about 11 miles per hour) in areas and at times when right whales are present, was set to expire December 2013.

December 6, 2013 – The Fisheries Service made permanent its speed limits for large ships along the U.S. East Coast to protect  North Atlantic right whales.

February 17, 2015 – In response to our petition and lawsuit, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed to protect 39,655 square miles as critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. 

January 26, 2016 – The National Marine Fisheries Service protected 39,414 square miles of ocean as critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales.

May 2, 2017 – Conservation groups, including the Center, moved to intervene in an administrative appeal by the oil industry challenging a federal decision to reject six oil and gas exploration permits for the Atlantic Ocean. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management denied the seismic airgun survey applications in part because the loud blasts would hurt endangered North Atlantic right whales and other sensitive wildlife.

October 2, 2017 – Conservation and animal-protection groups, including the Center, sought action by the United States and Canada to prevent painful, deadly entanglements in fishing gear that threaten the North Atlantic right whale.

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