We’re saving one of the world’s largest and most endangered animals.
We are at a tipping point. Since 2017, there has been 92 mortalities, serious injuries, and morbidities among North Atlantic right whales. This is 27% of the known population, currently estimated to be approximately 340 individuals with only 72 reproductive females. With their population steadily decreasing since 2010, this critically endangered species runs the risk of becoming functionally extinct within our lifetimes. Every right whale matters in conservation. When so few are left, they matter even more. The survival of even one whale could be the difference between saving the North Atlantic right whale and extinction.
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How we're helping
Right whale migratory routes run right along the United States and Canada’s Atlantic coastline—one of our planet’s most industrialized areas of ocean. As they migrate, they face two main threats: vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. While vessel strikes are often a death sentence, killing the whale within days of injury, entanglements often lead to a slow and painful death. Entangled whales suffer from chronic stress and immense physical pain, massively impacting their health and leading to decreased reproduction. But there is hope.
Through education, advocacy and grassroots engagement, IFAW has initiated a multifaceted campaign in the U.S. and Canada to drive public awareness, push for regulatory change, and promote innovative solutions to save North Atlantic right whales.
Preventing ship strikes
IFAW is working in close collaboration with researchers, shipping industries, recreational boaters, and partner organizations to advocate for and advance vessel speed limits in critical habitats. As the leading cause of whale mortality, large whales such as the North Atlantic right whale, are especially vulnerable to collisions with all vessel types, sizes and classes.
The Whale Alert app is a tool based on citizen science, where whale sightings submitted by the general public are used to help to establish speed zones and trigger alerts to mariners to be cautious of whales present in the area. This ultimately reduces the risk of vessel strikes to whales.
Whale Alert gives you the power to save them.
Advancing ropeless fishing technology
Modern technologies in the fishing industry could decrease marine mammal entanglements and make the ocean far safer. IFAW is working alongside fishermen to advance pilot testing of innovative on-demand gear. This technology decreases entanglement risk through deployment of gear that does not depend on fixed vertical buoy ropes. The removal of vertical rope lines from fishing gear will literally clear the way, forging a key path forward for survival of this species while preserving the heritage and livelihoods of fishermen.
Disentangling right whales and advancing rescue techniques
IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue team, based on Cape Cod in Yarmouth Port, MA, is ready to intervene at a moment’s notice when a right whale is observed to be entangled or in poor health. Our team of experienced whale veterinarians and biologists work with NOAA and the Center for Coastal Studies to support challenging cases. We have a custom-built remote drug delivery device capable of administering sedatives that helps slow whales down to improve the chances of a successful disentanglement.
In cases of deceased whales, IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue team has the skills to perform a necropsy on the whale and learn more about it's cause of death.
Citizen science is leading the way to saving this critical species
You have the power to help protect right whales by reporting sightings, which help to establish speed zones, warnings, and other measures to reduce risks to whales. Download our Whale Alert app today and help us build a better future for right whales.
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