We’re saving one of the world’s largest and most endangered animals.
North Atlantic right whales migrate along the east coast of North America, coming into contact with 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 can lead to a slow and painful death. Entangled whales suffer from chronic stress and physical pain leading to decreased reproduction rates.
Since 2017, 31 right whales died with another 12 presumed dead, or 10% of the known population. With fewer than an estimated 360 individuals left – and only a quarter of those being reproductive females – North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered. The death of even one whale could be the difference between species recovery and extinction.
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 right whales.
New technologies that aim to decrease right whale entanglement include ropeless fishing gear – the deployment of gear without fixed vertical buoy ropes in the water column – that could dramatically reduce or eliminate right whale entanglements, while allowing fishermen to continue their livelihoods.
We are ensuring that ship speed limits in critical habitats are secured, promoting ship speed compliance, and have developed Whale Alert, a situational awareness mobile app that alerts vessel operators on the presence of right whales.
IFAW is working directly with fishermen to advance pilot testing of ropeless gear. Through policy and advocacy initiatives, we are pursuing legislation, such as the SAVE Right Whales Act, that would fund the research, development, and implementation of solutions that protect right whales while maintaining a sustainable fishery.
We are also promoting “whale-safe” seafood and pursuing a certification program that will create a marketplace for lobster that is harvested in gear that does not harm right whales.
And, we have our own hands-on response team, the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Team, that is ready to intervene when a whale is observed entangled or in poor health.