Protecting the Western North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) from Extinction in the Western North Atlantic Ocean: A review of United States and Canada Governmental Public Policy through 2009

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Steffen Schmidt

Second Advisor

Edward Keith


The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is one of the most critically endangered whales in the world. A favorite target of whalers as early as 1000 years ago, it was considered the “right” whale to hunt because it was large, slow moving and would often float after being killed. The whale was hunted for its baleen and the oil extracted from its blubber. Pre-whaling abundance estimates are unknown but after prolonged whaling the species may have numbered as few as 85 individuals by the 19th century. Despite international protection from whaling since 1935 the right whale has failed to recover, presently numbering fewer than 400 individuals. Surveys and assessments in the latter half of the 20th century demonstrated that the right whale was not extinct, prompting protection in the United States and endangered status in Canada. Further studies showed that anthropogenic causes of mortality mainly from fishery entanglements and vessel collisions were inhibiting its recovery. In the U.S. the Right Whale Recovery Plan and the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan as well as ship strike reduction measures were implemented and continue to be modified. In Canada, the right whale received added protections through designation of right whale conservation areas’, “Areas to be Avoided” and Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Schemes. Recently the right whale was listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in Canada and a recovery strategy is under development.

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