The North Atlantic right whale is critically endangered. Scientists estimate that there are fewer than 360 individuals left. At this rate, it’s simply a race to save the right whale from extinction.
The two biggest threats to North Atlantic right whales are vessel strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear. In 2019, multi-agency research led by IFAW’s Dr. Sarah Sharp found that between 2003 and 2018, 90% of all right whale deaths (where death could be definitively determined) were caused by entanglement or vessel-induced trauma.
During the summer months, North Atlantic right whales can be found in feeding and nursery grounds off the coasts of Canada and New England. During the winter season, most migrate to the warmer waters off the coast of Florida, Georgia, and other southeastern U.S. states to give birth and to breed.
North Atlantic right whales can live to be 100 years old, but sadly, the majority are being killed before they reach the age of 40.
They are baleen whales and have keratin plates inside of their mouths instead of teeth. Their diet consists of zooplankton including krill and other tiny plankton.
Unlike many other species of whales, the North Atlantic right whale does not have a dorsal fin on its back.
North Atlantic right whales have very thick blubber that measures around 30 cm/12 inches in thickness.
Their blowhole is uniquely shaped, producing a spout of water that looks like the letter “V”.
North Atlantic right whales have large rough patches of skin on their heads called callosities Callosities vary in both shape and size, and their pattern is unique to each animal, helping scientists identify individuals.
The use of ropeless fishing gear and ensuring speed limits for ships in whale habitat are key to helping save the North Atlantic right whale from extinction.