NOAA announces $82 million to protect North Atlantic right whales

The money will be spent on monitoring and modeling for right whale sightings along the East Coast
A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf.
A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf.(NOAA Fisheries, photo taken under permit)
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 2:10 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWBT) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced an $82 million investment aimed at protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

$35.8 million will go towards passive acoustic monitoring (listening for the sounds of right whales in order to identify their location) along the East Coast, a satellite tagging program, and modeling advancements.

Approximately $20 million will go towards vessel strike reduction efforts. Nearly $18 million will fund ropeless fishing technologies.

Another $5 million will fund “enforcement efforts, supporting new equipment, technologies and operations.”

“During the past decade, right whales have changed their distribution patterns, spending more time in areas with fewer protections from vessel strikes and entanglements,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The species has experienced a severe population decline that has underscored the urgency to take new and innovative actions for their recovery. This funding allows us to invest in technologies to reduce the risk of vessel strikes, increase the use of on-demand fishing gear and improve enforcement of existing federal regulations.”

Vessel strikes and entanglement in heavy fishing ropes (the type used to pull up lobster or crab traps) are the two leading causes of North Atlantic right whale deaths. In February 2023, a 20-year-old North Atlantic right whale (#3343) was found dead in Virginia Beach. A necropsy conducted found it died of blunt force trauma related to a ship strike.

North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered mammals on earth. The population is estimated to be around 340 individuals, representing a 30% decline from a decade ago when there were estimated to be nearly 500 of these endangered whales.

Almost all deaths of right whales occur due to human impacts (vessel strikes and entanglements).