National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Supports Strong Action to Protect and Recover North Atlantic Right Whales
NOAA Fisheries designated $82 million to conserve the ocean giants that reside in two national marine sanctuaries
Silver Spring, Md. – September 28, 2023 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation celebrated the announcement by NOAA Fisheries of $82 million to support North Atlantic right whales through Inflation Reduction Act funds and urges immediate action to conserve and recover the iconic species. The $82 million builds on an ongoing investment by many organizations, local communities, and commercial interests to protect the ocean giants.
North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction. There are fewer than 350 individuals remaining, of which fewer than 70 are reproductively active females. They are at risk from entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes. Increasing ocean noise levels from human activities may also be a factor as well as climate change. Urgent action is needed by government, non-profit and business groups to save the species.
Two national marine sanctuaries—Stellwagen Bank in Massachusetts and Gray’s Reef in Georgia—are home to North Atlantic right whales as they migrate along the East Coast. They also pass through the area surrounding the proposed Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary in New York, which is undergoing the sanctuary designation process to protect that unique underwater ecosystem.
Tj Tate, Director of Conservation at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “We cannot be the generation that allows an iconic species like the North Atlantic right whale to go extinct. We are funding and testing solutions in national marine sanctuaries to protect North Atlantic right whales in sanctuaries and beyond.”
The $82 million in funding to NOAA Fisheries is an investment in technology that can help address the primary threats to North Atlantic right whales and produce solutions to the crisis. It will enable better monitoring of whale populations and their threats, including noise. It will develop and expand methods of reducing impacts from vessel traffic and fishing gear. And it will support enforcement of regulations meant to protect the whales.
Stan Rogers, Superintendent of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, said, “We are working with partners including the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to help alleviate stressors to right whales through better detection, real-time notifications to mariners, and enhanced education and outreach activities. Through this work, right whales will have a better chance of survival and recovery while providing refuge for females and calves in the southeast. It will take a concerted effort throughout the entire range of the species reducing all stressors to prevent further decline of this iconic species.”
David Wiley, Research Ecologist at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, said “Saving right whales from extinction is one of the conservation battles of our time. From our pioneering work creating the Whale Alert app to our Right Whale Corporate Responsibility report cards and developing the use of dimethyl sulfide for predictive modeling of right whale aggregations, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and our partners are in the forefront of this effort.”
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation works closely with NOAA and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to support North Atlantic right whale conservation, through research on ocean noise, ship strike avoidance, fishing gear entanglements, and more. Foundation partners such as the Volgenau Foundation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have generously supported this important work.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve cultural and maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at marinesanctuary.org.
Contact: Chip Weiskotten
Director of Strategic Communications