North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction, with fewer than 350 individuals—including fewer than 70 reproductively active females—remaining. The species is endangered, declining, and experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event. During the past decade, right whales have changed their distribution patterns, likely in response to changes in prey location and availability due to warming oceans. As their prey moved, the whales began spending more time in areas with fewer protections from vessel strikes and entanglements.
Investing in Technology to Save Right Whales
With this funding, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the North Atlantic right whale crisis and the primary threats to their survival: entanglements and vessel strikes. With $82 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, we will invest in solutions to recover these whales. We will use new technologies and improved distribution models to reduce the risk of vessel strikes. We will increase the use of on-demand fishing gear, and improve the enforcement of existing federal regulations.
Technology has the potential to provide transformational solutions to prevent extinction. They will enable various marine industries (such as fisheries, offshore wind, and shipping) to continue to thrive. We will directly support new and existing technology and invest in their further development and implementation. New technology such as satellite observations will help transform North Atlantic right whale monitoring. They will improve our understanding of the whales’ distribution and habitat use to support various regulatory measures.
North Atlantic Right Whale Inflation Reduction Act Funds
We will leverage annual appropriations and other funding, and support the development of innovative fishing gear and fisheries management actions. We will partner with our federal, state, industry, and other stakeholders.
This funding allows us to tackle the impacts of climate change on marine resources, benefiting North Atlantic right whales and other species.
The funding allocations are broken into five categories (all amounts are approximate).
Monitoring and Modeling: $35.8 million
- Passive acoustic monitoring ($17.3 million)
- Satellite tagging ($3.5 million)
- Uncrewed systems development ($4.2 million)
- Modeling advancements ($5.2 million)
- Very high resolution satellite artificial intelligence ($5.6 million)
Vessel Strike Reduction: $20.1 million
- Vessel strike risk reduction technology and development
- Technology implementation
- Additional support
On-Demand Fishing: $17.9 million
- Developing interoperability standards
- Training for use of systems
- Additional support
Enforcement: $5 million
General Support: $3.2 million
- Administrative support
- Project coordination
North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery
These funds complement NOAA Fisheries annual appropriations and will further support our overarching Road to Recovery strategy, which addresses threats to North Atlantic right whales and monitors our progress.
An upcoming milestone includes NOAA Fisheries’ plan to host a public right whale vessel strike risk reduction technology workshop in Washington, DC, in early 2024. The agency intends to promote the research, development, testing, and operationalization of innovative tools and management practices to offer vessel operators additional options for reducing lethal collisions with whales.