Northern Right Whale

Species Name: Eubalaena glacialis


Species Distribution in Massachusetts


Federal Rank: Endangered

Massachusetts State Rank: Endangered

Habitat Description

The Northern Right Whale inhabits the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, from the coast of Canada to northern Florida. In Massachusetts, Northern Right Whale populations are concentrated in Cape Cod Bay and the Great South Channel. Historically, Northern Right Whales were dispersed throughout all the world’s oceans, but now they have been limited to the North Atlantic.

Threats to Survival

The two main current reasons for the endangerment of Northern Right Whales are ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. Other threats include habitat degradation, contaminants, climate change, and disturbance from whale-watching and industrial activities. Natural predators such as sharks and killer whales also threaten the survival of Northern Right Whales. Commercial whaling has been the most influential cause to the decrease in Northern Right Whale populations.

Actions Recommended to Ensure Survival

Recovery plans for the Northern Right Whale have been put in place by the NOAA in recent years, focusing on reducing and limiting injury and mortality of Northern Right Whales due to ship collisions or entanglement in fishing gear, protecting Northern Right Whale habitats, minimizing disturbance, enforcing hunting bans, maximizing efforts to save entangled or stranded whales, and monitoring Northern Right Whale population size. Laws have also been made to reduce ship collisions. The New England Aquarium, IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research, and National Marine Fisheries Service have hotlines that can be reached in the event that people encounter stranded whales on the beach.