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New Partnership to Develop North Atlantic Right Whale Protection Technologies as Part of Investing in America Agenda

January 09, 2024

Inflation Reduction Act makes new funding available through NOAA Fisheries to conserve and recover endangered species

A birds eye view of an entangled North Atlantic right whale swimming off of Surf City, North Carolina. Behind the tail you can see some light blue gear weighing the tail down. An entangled adult North Atlantic right whale “Argo” off of Surf City, North Carolina. The light blue rectangle behind the flukes is the trailing entangling gear. Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #24359.

Today, NOAA Fisheries announced a partnership with the Center for Enterprise Modernization, a federally funded research and development center operated by MITRE, to support endangered North Atlantic right whale recovery efforts through a new contract for more than $9.9 million. This investment is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and funded by the Inflation Reduction Act — the largest climate investment in history. 

North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction with approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. Primary threats to the species are entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes. Climate change is also affecting every aspect of their survival.

“NOAA and its partners are working to stabilize the North Atlantic right whale population and prevent extinction of this species,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “This partnership, made possible by funding from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, will allow us to develop and explore new technologies and tools to address the North Atlantic right whale crisis.”

The partnership with MITRE will focus on the development of technologies and engineering approaches related to whale detection, vessel strike avoidance and on-demand or “ropeless” fishing gear. Advancements identified through this partnership will be shared across the scientific community, allowing other species vulnerable to these threats ― such as other large whales ― to benefit from the technologies developed.

“At NOAA Fisheries, we are dedicated to working with our partners to conserve and recover the endangered North Atlantic right whale population,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “We look forward to MITRE providing their expertise and technical knowledge to develop new ideas addressing this challenge.”

“We are pleased to partner with NOAA Fisheries to help rebuild the North Atlantic right whale population,” said Beth Meinert, senior vice president, MITRE Public Sector. “MITRE has 65 years of experience solving problems that require interdisciplinary expertise, combined with our maritime and underwater engineering capabilities, and access to state-of-the-art labs, such as the new BlueTech Lab. We look forward to collaborating with NOAA Fisheries on the identification and development of new scalable, widely deployable solutions to address this important problem.”

These efforts support NOAA Fisheries’ overarching Road to Recovery for North Atlantic right whales, which works to address threats to the species and monitor recovery progress. The species is experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event, which NOAA Fisheries declared in 2017 following the documentation of elevated right whale mortalities that is primarily driven by entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes. This event is ongoing and has impacted 121 North Atlantic right whales that are deceased, seriously injured or in poor health. 

NOAA Fisheries first announced a historic $82 million would be invested in North Atlantic right whale recovery efforts in September 2023. This is part of the historic $3.3 billion in Inflation Reduction Act investments focused on ensuring America’s communities and economies are ready for and resilient to climate change. 

This announcement comes as the landmark Endangered Species Act celebrates 50 years of protecting imperiled species. 

Visit NOAA’s Inflation Reduction Act website to learn about current and future funding opportunities.

Media contact
Lauren Gaches, nmfs.pa@noaa.gov, (202) 740-8314 

Last updated by Office of Communications on January 11, 2024