North Atlantic Right Whale Monitoring and Surveillance: Report and Recommendations of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Expert Working Group

August 11, 2020

This Technical Memorandum represents a report from a three-day workshop NOAA Fisheries convened to address objectives related to evaluating current North Atlantic right whale monitoring and surveillance efforts.

NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-64

NOAA Fisheries’ North Atlantic right whale Steering Committee convened an expert Working Group to address two objectives related to monitoring North Atlantic right whales: (1) improving our understanding of population status by identifying and tracking essential population metrics, and (2) improving our understanding of distribution and habitat use. The Working Group consisted of five NOAA Fisheries researchers (the authors of this report) with expertise in marine mammal monitoring, but not directly involved in current North Atlantic right whale monitoring efforts. The Working Group was convened during a three-day workshop (held at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, from October 22-24, 2019, with remote participants on Day 1), and on a series of follow up conference calls. This report provides a brief summary of the information provided to the Working Group, including historic and current North Atlantic right whale monitoring efforts conducted by NOAA Fisheries and partner institutions, information on the status and trends of North Atlantic right whales, and analyses conducted during the workshop or at the Working Group’s request. Moreover, the report primarily presents the Working Group’s recommendations for a comprehensive monitoring strategy to guide future analyses and data collection on (1) North Atlantic right whale demographics and population status, (2) distribution shifts and habitat use range-wide, and (3) the health of individuals and the population. The Working Group’s recommendations are intended to improve NOAA Fisheries’ overall monitoring strategy for North Atlantic right whales, with recognition of the significant contribution to North Atlantic right whale research and monitoring carried out by NOAA Fisheries and partner institutions and agencies.

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on 08/24/2020