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Species in the Spotlight: Priority Actions 2021-2025, North Atlantic Right Whale

April 21, 2021

The Species in the Spotlight initiative is a concerted agency-wide effort to spotlight and save marine species most at-risk of extinction in the near future. This plan focuses on priority actions needed in 2021-2025 for the North Atlantic right whale.

In 2015, NOAA Fisheries launched the Species in the Spotlight initiative to provide immediate, targeted efforts to halt declines and stabilize populations of the species most at-risk of extinction in the near future. The priority action plans are part of a strategy to focus resources within and outside of NOAA, guide agency actions where we have discretion to make investments, increase public awareness and support for these species, and expand partnerships. The 2021-2025 Priority Action Plans outline actions that are needed in the next 5 years to address the most urgent threats to the species.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered large whale species. There are approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. Human impacts continue to threaten the survival of this species.

Commercial whaling decimated right whales, bringing them to the brink of extinction. Despite protections put in place in the 1970s under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, recovery has been slow. In 1990, 268 individuals were estimated to be remaining. The population grew to approximately 481 individuals by 2010. Recently, increasing mortality rates and decreased calving have led to a population decline that has continued at least through 2019.

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on 02/02/2024

North Atlantic Right Whale Species in the Spotlight Species in the Spotlight Priority Action Plans