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North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

North Atlantic Right Whale
North Atlantic Right Whale. (Photo: Heather Foley, Marine Mammal Program, UNC-Wilmington)

The North Atlantic right whale was once abundant in coastal waters on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean but is now one of the world's most endangered species of mammal, terrestrial or marine. Only a single population numbering about 300 whales survives in the North Atlantic. At least two separate populations existed historically. Commercial hunting that began in the 11th century and continued through the early 1900s eliminated the eastern population along the coast of Europe. Basque whalers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the mid-1500s first exploited the western population, whose remnants are now found primarily along the coast of North America between Florida and southeastern Canada. By the early 1600s thousands of western North Atlantic right whales had been killed, and by the early 1900s, its survivors numbered only a few hundred whales at most, and perhaps just a few tens of animals. With the exception of the eastern North Pacific right whale population found off Alaska in summer, the western North Atlantic right whale population is the most endangered marine mammal population in U.S. waters.

Range and Habitat:

Western North Atlantic Ocean

Status under Law:

Endangered (ESA)

Conservation issues:

Ship collisions, entanglement in fishing gear, critically small population size, genetic diversity, prey availability, international collaboration

Physical characteristics:

At birth



4-4.6 m

17-18.3 m


910 kg
(2,000 lb)

Up to 90,000 kg
(200,000 lb)


Known to exceed 70 years

Annual Report:

For more information, see the North Atlantic Right Whale section from the 2002 Annual Report

Download a copy: PDF (354 KB)

Commission Letters:

To view Commission letters concerning North Atlantic Right Whales choose a date below

July 29, 2003

February 27, 2003

January 2, 2003

Additional Links:

National Marine Fisheries Service Stock Assessment Reports

NOAA - On the Trail of the Northern Atlantic Right Whale

NOAA - Protected Resources - Key Protection Measures for the North Atlantic Right Whale

NOAA Protected Species Branch North Atlantic Right Whale


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