North Atlantic right whale

The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis, which means "good, or true, whale of the ice"), is a baleen whale, one of three right whale species belonging to the genus Eubalaena, all of which were formerly classified as a single species. Because of their docile nature, their slow surface-skimming feeding behaviors, their tendencies to stay close to the coast, and their high blubber content (which makes them float when they are killed, and which produced high yields of whale oil), right whales were once a preferred target for whalers, who reportedly considered them the "right" whales to hunt.

At present, they are among the most endangered whales in the world, and they are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. There are about 400 individuals in existence in the western North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern North Atlantic, on the other hand – with a total population reaching into the low teens at best – scientists believe that they may already be functionally extinct. Vessel strikes and entanglement in fixed fishing gear, which together account for nearly half of all North Atlantic right whale mortality since 1970, are their two greatest threats to recovery. 

North Atlantic right whale
  • Size

    Adult North Atlantic right whales average 13–16 m (43–52 ft) in length and weigh approximately 40,000 to 70,000 kg (44 to 77 short tons), they are slightly smaller on average than the North Pacific species. The largest measured specimens have been 18.2 m (60 ft) long and 106,000 kg (234,000 lb). Females are larger than males.

  • Feeding

    Right whales feed mainly on copepods and other small invertebrates such as krill, pteropods, and larval barnacles, generally by slowly skimming through patches of concentrated prey at or below the ocean surface. Sei whales and Basking sharks are in positions as food competitors and are known to feed in the same areas, swimming next to each other, but there have not been any conflicts observed between these species.

  • Life History

    They first give birth at age nine or ten after a year-long gestation; the interval between births seems to have increased in recentyears and now averages three to six years. Calves are 13–15 feet (4.0–4.6 m) long at birth and weigh approximately 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg).


  • Behavior

    Aside from mating activities performed by groups of single female and several males, so called SAG (Surface Active Group), North Atlantic right whales seem less active compared to subspecies in southern hemisphere. However, this could be due to intense difference in number of surviving individuals especially calves that are tend to be more curious and playful than adults, and small amount of observations. They are also known to interact with other baleen whales.