What you can do to help save the endangered North Atlantic right whale


North Atlantic right whales are amongst the most endangered cetaceans on the planet, with their population hovering around a mere 400 individuals. 

Historically found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, today North Atlantic right whales overwinter and calve in the southern waters between Georgia and northern Florida. Each summer, they move north to Canada to feed in plankton-rich waters, where they face dire threats from ship strikes, fishing entanglements and changes in food sources and habitat—a side effect caused by global climate change.

Due to these human-induced stressors, as well as lower calving rates since 2010, experts predict that right whales could become extinct in as little as 20 years if individuals and organizations don’t work together to address the causes leading to their extinction.  

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Support decision making that works towards right whale conservation:
    In recent years, the Canadian government has made changes aimed at protecting the North Atlantic right whale (NARW) from ship strikes and entanglements. Tweet, email, and send letters to decision-makers letting them know you appreciate policies that support NARW conservation, and would like to see additional measures put in place to protect this critically endangered species.

  2. Stay informed:
    Follow organizations that support NARW conservation to stay up-to-date on the most recent information about government policy and the health of this species. A few of our favourite resources include the Whale Map, North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, Hinterland Who’s Who and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

  3. Support local organizations working towards right whale conservation:
    In Canada, many organizations are working to support the critically endangered NARW—from rescue missions to help entangled or injured whales, to advocating for policy change to reduce ship strikes and entanglements. You can support these initiatives by donating or volunteering your time and skills. Local organizations working on right whale conservation include the Canadian Whale Institute, Marine Animal Response Society (MARS), and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

  4. Support whale-safe initiatives:
    Many fishing and shipping companies are working to implement whale-safe activities. The Canadian government has also been working with industry to research new technologies that may help reduce or eliminate risks to whales from human activities. One recent example is the Gear Innovation Summit, a two-day event that brought government and industry together to explore options for whale-safe fishing gear and find innovative ways to prevent, retrieve and recycle lost or discarded fishing gear.

  5. Stay alert:
    The public plays a critical role when it comes to marine animal emergencies because they are often the first to come across these incidents. Learn how to respond in this short video about what to do if you encounter injured or entangled wildlife. Don’t forget to share this link with your friends, so they know how to help, too: https://youtu.be/cV2x5RdEZag  

  6. Do well by doing good:
    Since 2017, OTN has been partnering with Big Spruce Brewing on a deliciously hoppy and tropical IPA by the name of Tag! You’re It! that allocates 50 cents from each can sold to Canadian marine conservation initiatives. This year’s edition is helping organizations that are working to conserve the NARW. This ‘conservation in a can’ is available at the NSLC and Big Spruce’s online shop (free delivery in Nova Scotia, and Canada-wide shipping available too!): https://shop.bigspruce.ca/

  7. Raise awareness:
    Talk to family and friends about actions they can take to support right whale conservation. One way you can start the conversation is by sharing the Q&A with Canadian Wildlife Federation right whale expert Sean Brillant, linked below. You’ll learn about the problems impacting right whales, and the work being done to protect them.

    This is the first live stream in our summer series with the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) on NARWs. Follow Ocean Tracking Network and CWF on Facebook for updates on our next event, where you’ll be able to pose your questions to an expert and learn more about this endangered species. 

We recorded a follow-up with Sean Brillant where we answered more of your questions about the North Atlantic right whale.

Join OTN and CWF for the second live webinar in our North Atlantic right whale series on July 20 at 1 p.m. AST. This time around, you’re invited to a conversation and Q&A with Sean Brillant, Senior Conservation Biologist at CWF, and Tonya Wimmer, Director of the Marine Animal Response Society. Register online, or watch for it on our Facebook page!