Welcome to Whale Week 2024! Whales share many similarities to humans. Like us, they have social interactions, care for their young, and several species can sing. They can live for more than 100 years. Dive in with us to explore the wonders of more than 30 whale species in U.S and territorial waters. We will also explore our conservation efforts, along with our partners, to recover endangered and threatened whale species.
This year, for Whale Week, we’re delving into whale recovery across the nation, the role whales play in the carbon cycle, and how you can responsibly watch whales through the Whale SENSE partnership. Stay tuned for new exciting content, and join us in celebrating wonderful whales during Whale Week February 12–18, 2024!
Climate Change Threats
Last year was the planet’s warmest year on record—by far. Climate change is here. Species and ecosystems are impacted by warming temperatures, shifting habitats, extreme weather events, and other climate change impacts. Climate change brings big risks to whales
North Pacific right whales are one of the rarest large whale species, with an estimated 30 individuals in the eastern population. Climate change is one of the most significant threats facing their northernmost habitat in the Pacific. North Pacific right whales feed on zooplankton, but sea ice coverage determines where and when zooplankton can be found. Warming ocean temperatures result in the loss of sea ice, impacting zooplankton distribution and availability. Impacts to prey could affect the foraging behavior and success of North Pacific right whales leading to nutritional stress and diminished reproduction.
Rice’s Whale Highlights
In December 2023, we announced Rice’s whale as the newest Species in the Spotlight. This designation will bring greater attention and marshal resources to conserve this endangered species. The species’ small population size and high extinction risk make it a priority for NOAA Fisheries and our partners to recover. We have made tremendous strides in our understanding of Rice’s whales since the species was identified in 2019. We’re also working with partners to design conservation measures to minimize human impacts on Rice’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico.
Responsible Whale Watching
Seeing a whale in the wild is an awe-inspiring experience, and it’s important to respect marine life and their habitats to ensure they are here for future generations to enjoy.
Give Whales Space
Remain at least 100 yards, or the length of a football field, away from all whale species. Some whale species have additional restrictions, so know the requirements for your geographic area.
Slow Down and Watch Out for Whales
Not all whale species are easily spotted from vessels. Collisions with boats as small as 30 feet in length can be lethal to large whales, especially calves, and dangerous for boat passengers. Reduce your speed to keep everyone safe.
Conservation Successes in the Face of Climate Change
Whales are the largest creatures in the ocean, and they can be the canaries in the coal mine. Their health and population trends can be an indicator of wider ocean health and give insights about human health. We’ve made significant strides in whale conservation, research, and recovery under the Endangered Species Act. While climate change makes conserving these whales more challenging, we are proud of the conservation successes we’ve made.
This week and every week, NOAA Fisheries recovers and conserves all whale species—from the North Pacific right whales in Alaska, to Rice’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico, to blue whales, which are found in every ocean. Join us during Whale Week as we spotlight wonderful whale species, challenges to their recovery, and conservation successes.