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North Atlantic Right Whale Recovery Under the Inflation Reduction Act

NOAA Fisheries has received a historic $82 million in funding under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act to conserve and recover endangered North Atlantic right whales.

North Atlantic right whale #3942 Credit: North North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog/New England Aquarium

Endangered North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction. There are approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. Human impacts continue to threaten the survival of this species. The species is endangered, declining, and experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event. During the past decade, right whales have changed their distribution patterns, likely in response to changes in prey location and availability due to warming oceans. As their prey moved, the whales began spending more time in areas with fewer protections from vessel strikes and entanglements.

Learn more about the North Atlantic right whale

Investing in Technology to Save Right Whales

With this funding, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the North Atlantic right whale crisis and the primary threats to their survival: entanglements and vessel strikes. With $82 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, we will invest in solutions to recover these whales. We will use new technologies and improved distribution models to reduce the risk of vessel strikes. We will increase the use of on-demand fishing gear, and improve the enforcement of existing federal regulations. 

Technology has the potential to provide transformational solutions to prevent extinction. They will enable various marine industries (such as fisheries, offshore wind, and shipping) to continue to thrive. We will directly support new and existing technology and invest in their further development and implementation. New technology such as satellite observations will help transform North Atlantic right whale monitoring. They will improve our understanding of the whales’ distribution and habitat use to support various regulatory measures.

$9.9 million partnership to develop technologies supporting North Atlantic right whale recovery

North Atlantic Right Whale Inflation Reduction Act Funds

We will leverage annual appropriations and other funding, and support the development of innovative fishing gear and fisheries management actions. We will partner with our federal, state, industry, and other stakeholders.

This funding allows us to tackle the impacts of climate change on marine resources, benefiting North Atlantic right whales and other species. 

The funding allocations are broken into five categories (all amounts are approximate).

Monitoring and Modeling: $35.8 million

  • Passive acoustic monitoring ($17.3 million)
  • Satellite tagging ($3.5 million)
  • Uncrewed systems development ($4.2 million)
  • Modeling advancements ($5.2 million)
  • Very high resolution satellite artificial intelligence ($5.6 million)

Vessel Strike Reduction: $20.1 million

  • Vessel strike risk reduction technology and development
  • Technology implementation
  • Additional support

On-Demand Fishing: $17.9 million

  • Developing interoperability standards
  • Training for use of systems
  • Additional support

Enforcement: $5 million

  • Equipment
  • Operations

General Support: $3.2 million

  • Administrative support
  • Project coordination
  • Management

North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery

These funds complement NOAA Fisheries annual appropriations and will further support our overarching Road to Recovery strategy, which addresses threats to North Atlantic right whales and monitors our progress. 

North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery

Technology Workshops

An upcoming milestone includes NOAA Fisheries’ public right whale vessel strike risk reduction technology workshop. It will be held March 5–7, 2024 in Arlington, Virginia and virtually. The workshop will explore and promote new technologies that offer mariners additional options for reducing lethal collisions with right whales.

In November 2023, we convened a workshop to explore developing standards for acoustic communications and data to support on-demand fishing. Fishing gear manufacturers, acoustic communications experts, fishermen, fishery managers, and other stakeholders discussed the interoperability of on-demand, or "ropeless," fishing systems across ocean users as well as gear manufacturers. 

In September 2023, we co-hosted a North Atlantic right whale satellite telemetry tagging workshop with the Marine Mammal Commission, the Office of Naval Research, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Satellite telemetry can help determine migratory routes and habitat use in response to ongoing climate change effects. Participants reviewed the best available science to inform future planning and permitting decisions regarding the use of satellite telemetry tagging for right whales and other endangered baleen whales.