Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 25, 2023


Cooper Freeman, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 531-0703,
Kevin Campion, Save the North Pacific Right Whale, (206) 228-3615,

Alaska Habitat Protections Expanding for North Pacific Right Whale

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— NOAA Fisheries announced today that it intends to expand critical habitat protections in Alaska for the North Pacific right whale. If finalized, the action will help protect the most endangered whale population in the world.

In July 2022 NOAA Fisheries announced a review of the whale’s critical habitat in Alaska, responding to a petition submitted in March of 2022 by the Center for Biological Diversity and Save the North Pacific Right Whale. The petition requested that the agency include thousands of square nautical miles the whale relies on for feeding and migration.

Scientists estimate that only 30 individual North Pacific right whales may remain. With very few reproducing females, the species is at extreme risk of imminent extinction. The population ranges from the Bering Sea to Baja California.

“I’m encouraged that North Pacific right whales may get these badly needed protections,” said Cooper Freeman, Alaska representative at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s no time to waste in helping these whales, who are teetering right on the brink of extinction. We need to move fast and do everything we can to protect the places that are crucial to their survival.”

The agency’s initial positive finding triggered a thorough review of the whale’s current critical habitat designation, with a determination of how the agency will proceed required 12 months after the petition filing date. The agency confirmed today that it will revise the critical habitat area following additional study and analysis.

“As one of the rarest whales on the planet, North Pacific right whales require a dedicated effort to recover,” said Kevin Campion, boat captain and founder of Save the North Pacific Right Whale. “We’re grateful to NOAA for recognizing these areas are critical to the whale’s survival. Now it’s time to work toward a thriving North Pacific right whale population.”

The petition urging habitat expansion cited growing threats to the whale from vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, ocean noise and oil and gas spills. Climate change is reducing sea ice and altering shipping routes, resulting in increased shipping traffic in the whale’s habitat.

Since NOAA Fisheries’ last rule on the whale’s critical habitat in 2008, new surveys and research have confirmed two key habitats essential for this right whale population’s survival. The whales use a migratory corridor through the Fox Islands in the Aleutian chain, including Unimak Pass, both during and outside the assumed migratory season, and rely on feeding grounds near Kodiak Island.

Scientists have discovered that North Pacific right whales put calls into distinguishable, consistent songs, making them the first right whales ever known to sing.

North Pacific Right Whale, Eubalaena japonica, (c) John Durban, NOAA Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Save the North Pacific Right Whale is dedicated to saving the world's rarest whale.

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