Right whale conservation effort gets historic boost

At $82 million, new NOAA funding is the largest conservation investment in history.

Right whales are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as it’s believed that the species may have already become extinct in the eastern North Atlantic. —Courtesy New England Aquarium

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries has received $82 million in funding for the conservation and recovery of the endangered North Atlantic right whale, the agency announced Monday.

Threatened largely by fishing gear entanglement and vessel strikes, along with various effects of climate change, North Atlantic right whales are considered to be one of the ocean’s most endangered species. With fewer than 350 individuals remaining, the whales have been experiencing an unusual mortality event since 2017. 

In recent years, warming oceans and changes in food availability have forced right whales to alter their distribution patterns, resulting in the whales entering areas with less protection.

“The species has experienced a severe population decline that has underscored the urgency to take new and innovative actions for their recovery,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, in a recent press release. “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.”

The funding, which marks the largest climate and conservation investment in history, was allocated under the Biden-Harris administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and allows NOAA to prioritize certain critical areas dedicated to mitigating impacts of climate change. 

The $82 million will be allocated toward monitoring and computer modeling of Atlantic right whale distribution, reducing risks of vessel strikes, supporting new equipment and technology, and enforcing federal regulations.

NOAA says the organization plans on creating a new satellite-tagging monitoring program with high-resolution satellite artificial intelligence, in addition to launching advanced whale detection and avoidance technology, and activating passive acoustic monitoring systems along the U.S. East Coast. 

The funds will complement the agency’s annual appropriations, which serve to support NOAA’s North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery — a regularly updated resource used to identify and address threats, and monitor the species’ recovery progress. 

“This historic funding will allow NOAA Fisheries to make critical advancements in our work to save the endangered North Atlantic right whale species,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in Monday’s statement. “With $82 million of Inflation Reduction Act funding, we are making smart investments — a cornerstone of Bidenomics — to help address the crisis these whales are facing through innovative solutions that minimize the impact on workers in marine industries.” 

On Wednesday, Gib Brogan, campaign director of the nonprofit Oceana, the largest international advocacy group dedicated to ocean conservation, responded to NOAA’s announcement, and told The Times that although the organization is encouraged by NOAA Fisheries’ new funding, swift action is critical if the right whale species is to be saved. 

“While Oceana supports the additional funds for conservation efforts, what North Atlantic right whales need are on-the-water protections now,” he said. “Money only goes so far. We cannot study this problem and potential solutions for years while North Atlantic right whales decline toward extinction.” 

Brogan also noted that the NOAA’s Vessel Speed Rule, meant to reduce the risk of ship strikes, is currently pending updates, which would be crucial for increasing right whale protections and facilitating the recovery of the species. 

“NOAA must issue the final rule soon, and before calving season, to ensure mothers and calves are protected as they travel the East Coast,” he said. “We also encourage NOAA to immediately increase enforcement efforts of ship speed limits to protect these vulnerable whales. Time is running out for North Atlantic right whales, and they need actual protections — not money — now.”


  1. Save the right whales, marine life and planet Earth by canceling all the offshore wind energy projects and its poisonous consequences.

  2. NOAA issues Incidental take permits to offshore wind companies for the harassment/kill of over 600,000 species,
    One of which is the North American Right whale , these permits are authorized to ‘take” 4x the remaining population in existence.

    Throwing money at a problem that research and technology cannot fix.
    Commerce is not going to slow , cruise industry is not going to stop , and ropeless technology for the lobster industry isn’t going to do anything.
    NOAA’S own graph from 1990- present , show that from 1990 to 2011 the right whale population doubled, during that period, there was 50-75% more lobster gear in the water , than there is today. If entanglements were a major factor in population reduction, it would have been during that time period.
    NOAA , needs to take this money and put it towards funding of necropsies for all the future whale mortalities.
    All the marine mammal stranding groups I have spoken with, say that funding is the biggest hurdle when it comes to performing these necropsies.
    $82 million could help but I doubt we’ll ever see it.

    • Jason— cut the BS that wind farms
      are authorized to kill or injure any marine mammal.
      You have said it before, and I chalked it up
      to ignorance. There is plenty of that going
      on about wind farms.
      Indeed, the first comment here just
      throws out a random statement
      that windmills are “poisonous”. Ok, that is
      ignorance speaking— Not really worth
      responding to. But as for your continued
      comments about the “takes”— they have now clearly
      crossed over the line, and are lies. Someone once
      said “it’s not a lie if you believe it” but, Jason,
      you are not stupid. I have shown you directly
      a number of times that your continued assertions
      about this “issue” it is not true. You know it’s
      not true. You are lying and you know it.
      Give it a break and continue to contribute
      honest opinions and facts. I for one appreciate it
      when you contribute to the debate.
      Just quit the lying — ok ? thanks.

  3. Right Whales need to have their ocean home protected. The windmills going in their ocean pathways have sonar on each pole which confuses the whale’ s guidance system and sets them off course, ending up beaching themselves. The activities to prepare the ocean for the windmills and the digging down 18′ to install poles and the vibrations of the blades and the resistance as they cycle around and the electrolysis around each pole makes it a dangerous place for the mothers and babies.
    As we work to save the earth, realize the ocean and whales are part of the eco system working to save our planet. Each whale pulls 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the water as the ocean cools land temperatures. Thank you for the money to help them in their effort to help us. Please leave large corridors where they live free of the encumbrances of windmills.
    Corporations who have made there living from coal, gas and oil are not the answer to trust with nature’s health and well being. Using less is our best hope to help the earth.

    • You are so right: The whales are the allies—the big troops—for maintaining planetary balance and atmospheric health, also for humans. They are not just a “charismatic” ornament. It is really STUPID to endanger them. (Quite apart from their own right to life.)

      Right whales are a big part of the ocean’s own cycle of regrowth, helping to provide at least half of the oxygen needed for life on earth.
      1. Whales feed at depth. Different species of whales, including right whales, feed on a range of marine creatures, including krill and fish.
      2. Whales come up to the surface to breathe.
      3. Under reduced pressure near the surface the whales can defecate–release vast quantities of poop.
      3. Whale poop fertilizes microscopic plants called phytoplankton. Phytoplancton need the nutrients in the poop to survive. They cannot fetch nutrients from the deep themselves.
      4. Phytoplancton, through photosynthesis, absorb nearly a third of human-produced carbon–hundreds of thousands of tons each year.
      5. Phytoplancton, like “floating rainforests,” through their photosynthesis, produce half of our planet’s oxygen.
      6. This whole process is called the “whale pump.”

      Right whales help provide the oxygen humans and other organisms need. Right whales now forage south of MV and Nantucket, in the wind farm lease areas. Any actions that endanger these large, powerful apex organisms is short-sighted. Typical corporate short-range “thinking.” Meanwhile, energy companies have ignored other marine-based renewable technologies in favor of disruptive Big Wind and its unreliable, intermittently available product.

  4. We need to get away from the large grids. We should of learned that lesson from the Texas grid. There are figure eight small windmills each home could have in the yard or small fan size turbines on the peak of a roof. Direct energy to a home by passes giving ownership of our oceans and land to the Government and big money corporations. When the grid goes out each home still has power. There are so many passive energy projects we can have for our houses.

  5. What we learned from the Texas Grid is that even in Texas you have to freeze proof your gas distribution system.
    We also learned that Texas decided to not tie into the national grid system. Our country had plenty power for Texas, they chose to not plug in.
    When the wind does not blow on your small fan size turbines where will your power come from?
    Turbines are not passive, they go round and round.
    In the future the grid will be more about the storage of energy.
    Even storage at your house.

  6. As Katherine Scoot states above, “Wind energy is intermittent, unreliable.” Due to rising inflation for materials, labor and excessive maintenance it is now too costly to be competitive. Biden’s inflation reduction act is throwing good money after bad. Many offshore wind companies are demanding more government funding to continue their ongoing projects. Look it up. See next excerpt paragraph.
    “Offshore wind is in trouble, in the US and globally,” Sy Oytan, Avangrid’s chief operating officer for offshore wind, said in July during a tour of the company’s Vineyard Wind project, south of Martha’s Vineyard.

    • Roy, wake up and smell the roses.
      There is this new fangled thing called the battery that can store energy, have you heard of them?

  7. A new documentary film has just been released about research into connections between increased wind-farm-related activity in the lease areas and a marked increase in whale deaths.

    “The Film That Could Save an Entire Whale Species is Now Free to Watch”

    Here is the URL:

    A lot of info is provided of actual decibel measurements taken near surveying ships.
    Hear it for yourself: Go to ca. 16:00 and then 20:00. (Better still, watch the whole film and become better informed on these issues.)

    Noise levels recorded in the water would be over 100 decibels. in the air (much louder underwater).

    The vessels themselves emit a lot of noise. Then add to that the sound waves they send out constantly to map the undersea terrain via reflection back to on-board instruments. It is noise torture. These noise levels significantly overstep NOAA permitted levels. Whales cannot just put their flippers over their ears. Furthermore, a considerable portion of the noise is low frequency, which enters the brain not just through the ears but also through the body.

    • Oil exploration requires constant sound waves to map undersea terrain via reflection back to on-board instruments. It is noise torture. These noise levels significantly overstep NOAA permitted levels. Whales cannot just put their flippers over their ears. Furthermore, a considerable portion of the noise is low frequency, which enters the brain not just through the ears but also through the body.

      All energy extraction comes at a cost. How much energy do you use? How much does it cost?

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