The goal of the Right Whale Research Program at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life is to keep the North Atlantic right whale from becoming extinct due to human activities in the oceans. Unintended threats to right whales include ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear. With that goal in mind, our scientists are active on many different projects including:

  • Curating the catalog of all right whales in the North Atlantic; integrating thousands of sightings annually into the catalog of many tens of thousands of sightings
  • Collaborating with researchers at Trent University in Canada to examine DNA from right whale skin samples and to understand population structure and individual genetic profiles; define family trees; and determine resistance to disease
  • Meticulously collecting and analyzing data about ship strikes in the U.S. and Canada, and advocating for changes to shipping lanes in an effort reduce vessel strikes of right whales—the primary cause of right whale mortality
  • Leading investigations into fishing gear modifications that could minimize the impact of fishing line entanglement on whale health, including ropes with reduced breaking-strength, better visibility for marine mammals, and less flexibility.
  • Managing the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, which is comprised of individuals and organizations active in right whale research and management.

Funding for this important work is made possible through annual requests for contracts from federal agencies, grants from foundations and corporations, and donations from generous individuals.