Right Whales Declared Critically Endangered

right whale aerial shot

Photo: NOAA Fisheries, Northeast Fisheries Science Center

July 9, 2020 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation released the following statement today after the status of the North Atlantic right whale was uplifted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature from endangered to critically endangered. This new designation is one step before extinction.

“This is a barometer and the forecast for right whales could still go either way,” said CLF Senior Attorney Erica Fuller. “With a calf recently found dead of blunt trauma caused by a vessel strike, we’re one step closer to extinction. While this new status doesn’t change legal obligations here at home, it’s a reminder that to save this species, we can’t wait any longer for necessary long term protections.”

Since learning that the population is declining in 2017, the federal government has repeatedly delayed putting new protections for right whales on the water. Most recently, they pushed back the timeline for new regulations intended to reduce the risk of entanglement in fishing gear, one of the biggest threats to right whales.

Only about 400 North Atlantic right whales are left in our oceans. Tragically, the first documented right whale death in 2020 may actually be the second calf to die this year.  Another calf was struck by a vessel in January, and neither it nor his mother has been seen again. At this time, 31 right whales are known to have died in the US and Canada from entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes since 2017. CLF continues to advocate for long term protections to recover and rebuild this species. 

CLF experts are available for further comment.