Conservation Efforts

Management / Partnerships / Regulators
Who is in charge of regulation, enforcement, and data management?

ALWTRT meeting signThere are a large number of user groups that have an interest in how the ocean and coastlines are used and protected. Each brings its own expertise, point of view, and set of goals. Managing these interests while regulating resource usage, and enforcing the laws, is a challenge. Creating the laws requires an intimate knowledge of the resource, of the fisheries, and of the methods of collecting data. Quite often it takes several long meetings to hear all of the opinions and to sort through the information before policy is set. Ultimately, state or federal government agencies will oversee these regulations and enforce penalties if necessary.





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Collaborative Data Collection to Drive Policy

NARWC logoBecause many of these animals travel great distances, and researchers may be working along different locations on the migratory pathways, the sharing of information is both helpful and necessary. An example of such a collaboration is the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. This group meets on an annual basis to share what they’ve learned about this endangered species and to promote well-informed conservation and management decisions for the protection of the remaining animals.


Shipping Management

map showing whales trafficShipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy in Canada, in Boston Harbor, and San Francisco Bay have been shifted to cut down on the possibility of large cargo ships hitting whales in these busy areas. These small changes to the path taken by ships have reduced the number of ship strikes. Years of carefully recorded data was used as the basis to make these changes.




Click on map to enlarge. Image courtesy of NOAA/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.


Auto-detection Buoys

NARW listening networkSubmerged listening devices have been installed in several locations, including Boston Harbor, to listen for calls from specific types of whales. These systems sort whale sounds from non-whale sounds, which enables managers and researchers to send notices to mariners about the presence of these animals. Visit to learn about their right whale detection system.




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Thermal Imaging / Thermographic Videography
Specialized cameras and video cameras that photograph and videotape images based on temperature differences in the field of vision are being used to record cetacean activity at night, when it is much more difficult for observers to see activity with their own eyes. These cameras make it much easier to see flukes, flippers, body outlines and the spray when a cetacean exhales. This information gets shared with mariners to help them avoid these animals.


Seasonal Management Areas

map seasonal management areas for north atlanticEndangered North Atlantic right whales have fairly predictable migration patterns, and with proper planning can be avoided when they are migrating. Since 2008, mandatory speed restriction zones that mimic the whale’s migration along the Atlantic Coast during the year, for vessels longer than 65 feet (19.8 meters), have cut down on the number of collisions.




Click on map to enlarge.


Dynamic Management Areas

map of dynamic management areasVoluntary speed restriction zones for vessels longer than 65 feet (19.8 meters) are posted periodically during the year, by National Marine Fisheries Service, for areas outside the seasonal management areas. This occurs when whales show up unexpectedly in these locations.





Click on map to enlarge. Image courtesy of NOAA/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.


Entanglement Mitigation
Removing entangled gear from whales is dangerous work. It involves sharp tools, unpredictable ocean conditions, and stressed out whales that don’t always welcome the rescue boat. Anyone who does this work has gone through hours of training and has to wear safety gear. Disentanglement efforts sometimes take hours to complete and are not always successful. The best solution is to reduce or eliminate the conditions that lead to entanglement. This requires action and changes in several areas. Learn more


International Cooperation
International cooperation exists at several levels: governmental, non-governmental organization, university, or a combination of any of these. These partnerships involve the sharing of research results and tools, tracking of species and collaborations on research projects. Learn more


Survival Threats and Conservation Efforts (website links)
The uncomfortable truth is that human activity has had negative impacts on the lives of marine organisms. However, we also have the ability to minimize, and perhaps eliminate, the unintended consequences of our activities on and in the water, and along the coastline. Several organizations and initiatives are working towards these ends. Learn more


Protective Measures
Information on the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in 1946 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Learn more


Top Banner Caption: A humpback whale and calf in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (NOAA). Photograph courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.