Species Profile

North Pacific Right Whale

Scientific Name: Eubalaena japonica
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Pacific Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2015
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2abd; D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: After an absence of verified sightings of the species in Canadian waters for over 60 years, sightings of two separate individuals in 2013 confirmed that the current range includes Canadian waters. The numbers in the eastern North Pacific are extremely low, with estimates of fewer than 50 individuals in the southeastern Bering Sea, the only known area of regular occurrence of this population. It is most unlikely that the number of mature animals exceeds 250 individuals over its entire range.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The Right Whale was considered a single species and designated Endangered in 1980. Status re-examined and confirmed in April 1985 and in April 1990. Split into two species in May 2003. North Pacific Right Whale was not re-evaluated in May 2003; it retained the Endangered status of the original Right Whale. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in November 2004 and May 2015.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2006-08-15

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Related Species

Species COSEWIC
Status
SARA
Status
Right Whale Non-active Endangered

Quick Links: | Photo | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of North Pacific Right Whale

North Pacific Right Whale Photo 1

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Protection

Federal Protection

The North Pacific Right Whale is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the North Pacific Right Whale (Eubalaena japonica) in Pacific Canadian Waters
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whale Action Plan Technical Team

  • Jonathan Thar - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Phone: 604-666-3811  Fax: 604-666-3341  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The North Pacific Right Whale is the rarest species of large cetacean and may number fewer than 100 animals. Because of the longevity, low reproductive potential, and rarity of this species, it may take decades before there are any significant increases in population size. In 2002, a female with a young calf was observed in the Bering Sea. This is the first calf seen in the past century. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Since 2002, researchers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have conducted annual surveys for North Pacific Right Whales and other cetaceans in the ocean off Canada’s Pacific coast. To date, no Right Whales have been sighted, which suggests that they continue to be extremely rare in the region. Underwater acoustic recording packages have also been used off the British Columbia coast to monitor for the presence of Right Whales using their unique vocalizations. Collection of physical and biological oceanographic information (such as the life history of copepods, which are the preferred prey of Right Whales) is being used to predict optimal foraging habitat for this species. This study examines the extent to which prey distribution may affect the recovery of the Right Whale. By combining oceanographic models with ship-based surveys in areas likely to have high concentrations of copepods, and in areas identified as historically important North Pacific Right Whale habitat, researchers will be better able to determine potentially important habitat for this species in British Columbia. Summary of Recovery Activities The British Columbia Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN), a joint project of DFO and the Vancouver Aquarium, has been collecting sightings of whales, dolphins, and porpoises to improve the understanding of the distribution, occurrence, and relative abundance of these species. The BCCSN has also partnered with other stewardship groups and DFO to develop whale-watching guidelines for kayakers, commercial whale-watch operators, and recreational boaters, to reduce disturbance to these animals. An additional goal of the BCCSN is to improve the reporting and response to entangled and stranded cetaceans. Right Whales in the North Atlantic are at particular risk due to collisions from ships and entanglement in fishing gear, and the same is likely true of North Pacific Right Whales. Any future sightings of North Pacific Right Whales will be used to assess the animal’s vulnerability to these sources of injury or mortality. Outreach activities include coast-wide presentations on cetaceans-at-risk by the BCCSN and DFO, as well as widespread distribution of “Be Whale Wise” posters and brochures to promote non-disturbing whale watch practices. Discussions regarding contaminant levels and marine debris aid in the promotion of local community initiatives involved in reducing contaminants in marine environments. URLs Wild Whales:www.wildwhales.org Department of Fisheries and Oceans: Species at Risk:http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/species/species_rightWhale_north_pacific_e.asp

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

30 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the North Pacific right whale Eubalaena japonica in Canada (2005-08-12)

    The taxonomic status of right whales (genus Eubalaena) worldwide has been the subject of mild controversy for over 20 years. In 2000, the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee, after considering genetic and morphological data, decided to retain the generic name of Eubalaena for right whales, and recognize three species, E. japonica for the North Pacific, E. glacialis for the North Atlantic, and E. australis for all southern hemisphere right whales.
  • COSEWIC Status Appraisal Summary on the North Pacific Right Whale Eubalaena japonica in Canada (2016-02-04)

    After an absence of verified sightings of the species in Canadian waters for over 60 years, sightings of two separate individuals in 2013 confirmed that the current range includes Canadian waters. The numbers in the eastern North Pacific are extremely low, with estimates of fewer than 50 individuals in the southeastern Bering Sea, the only known area of regular occurrence of this population. It is most unlikely that the number of mature animals exceeds 250 individuals over its entire range.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - North Pacific Right Whale (2015-12-23)

    After an absence of verified sightings of the species in Canadian waters for over 60 years, sightings of two separate individuals in 2013 confirmed that the current range includes Canadian waters. The numbers in the eastern North Pacific are extremely low, with estimates of fewer than 50 individuals in the southeastern Bering Sea, the only known area of regular occurrence of this population. It is most unlikely that the number of mature animals exceeds 250 individuals over its entire range.
  • Response Statements - North Pacific Right Whale (2005-11-15)

    Although there have not been sightings of this species in the last 50 years in Canadian waters, there have been sightings both south and north of British Columbia waters. Therefore it is not appropriate to classify the species as extirpated. The total population in the eastern North Pacific likely numbers a few tens of animals.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the North Pacific Right Whale (Eubalaena japonica) in Pacific Canadian Waters (2011-08-11)

    A draft “National Recovery Strategy for the North Pacific Right Whale in Pacific Canadian Waters” was prepared in 2003-04 by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with input from other stakeholders and interested parties.  This current recovery strategy fulfills requirements under SARA and provides updated information regarding North Pacific Right Whales in Pacific Canadian waters and adjacent waters, as well as re-focused recovery measures for the species. 

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, B. borealis, and Eubalaena japonica) in Canadian Pacific Waters (2017-03-09)

    This action plan addresses the entire set of populations of Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, B. borealis, and Eubalaena japonica) in Canadian Pacific waters. It identifies recovery measures to implement the broad goals and objectives outlined in the Recovery Strategy for Blue, Fin and Sei Whales in Pacific Canadian Waters (Gregr et al. 2006), and the Recovery Strategy for North Pacific Right Whales (DFO 2011). All four species are being considered together because of their similar geographic distribution, common threats to survival, and the efficiency of integrating activities and resources required for recovery.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016-07-04)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005-08-12)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2014-2015 (2015-11-20)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 1 Endangered: 21 Threatened: 11 Special Concern: 21 Data Deficient: 1 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing licence(#16-PPAC-00005 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2016-02-11)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#18-PPAC-00027 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-06-26)

    The California Current Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey is a scientific study designed to assess the status of marine mammal stocks and monitor the ecosystem they inhabit. Data on cetacean distribution, school size, and school composition are collected to determine abundance. Cetacean skin biopsies will be used to investigate stock structure and phylogenic relationships. Photographs will document geographic and individual variation. Oceanographic data will characterize cetaceans' habitat and it's variation over time.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#19-PPAC-00034 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-07-07)

    The study aims at determining sound propagation (detectability over distance) for Killer Whale calls within their habitat including natural and anthropogenic noise conditions. The activities permitted under this license shall assess Killer Whale vocalization ranges, which vary by location, habitat and times of the year. The study aims at better understanding the impact of noise on vocalization ranges and to determine optimal locations for passive killer whale acoustic monitoring stations. Simulated sounds including calls of Killer Whales shall be projected underwater from a stationary source and recorded via hydrophones at various distances and different angles from the source via a mobile platform (small vessel). This information will also be used to determine the optimal locations for passive acoustic monitoring and tracking of whales. The activities permitted under this license include the following: 1. Simulated sounds including calls of Killer Whales may be projected underwater from a stationery source (anchored vessel) via an underwater sound projector suspended at a fixed depth of either 10 or 25 m and recorded via two or more hydrophones at various distances and different angles. 2. Sound projection shall not be conducted when cetaceans are present within 5km of the recording and sound projection vessel. 3. The area is to be monitored visually and acoustically for cetaceans for 30 minutes prior to acoustic trials to ensure that no cetaceans are present within 5 km. If cetaceans are present within 5 km, acoustic trials must be delayed or stopped and monitoring for an additional 30 minutes shall continue before acoustic trials can be reinitiated.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 106), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-01-01)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 107), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-02-09)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 151 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-01-01)

    Authorized representatives from DFO and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to disentangle pinnipeds, cetaceans or sea turtles from fishing gear and other debris of human origin.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 153 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2012-08-02)

    Authorized representatives of the Fisheries Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries, are licensed to collect photographic identification, video tape and line transect sighting surveys to aid in the research and recovery of these species at risk by determining abundance estimates.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 159 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2013-01-22)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 160 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2013-01-23)

    Authorized representatives from DFO and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to disentangle pinnipeds, cetaceans or sea turtles from fishing gear and other debris of human origin.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 276 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2013-01-01)

    Authorized representatives from DFO are licensed to conduct photo identification, prey and scat collection, biopsy sampling, tagging, underwater video and acoustic playback as per research protocols.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PPAC-18-00008), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-04-19)

    Disentanglement of all cetacean, pinniped and sea turtle species on the Pacific Coast. The disentanglement technique will be decided by the DFO primary investigator in consultation with team members and other personnel. The exact method will depend on the nature of the debris, available equipment, location, physical condition and size of the animal. Drones may be used to assess and identify gear tangle configuration to assist with disentanglement A DFO approved tag may be attached to each released animal.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PPAC-18-00023), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-05-10)

    Scientific research on all cetacean species on the Pacific Coast to monitor animal health, life history, diet, social structure, population and distribution. Photo-identification of individual cetaceans using natural markings. Closest approach distance to whales is 20 metres for photographic identification. Collection of prey fragments and scat from cetaceans. Closest approach distance to whales is 20 metres for prey fragment and scat collection. Collection of skin and blubber biopsy samples using a 12 gram dart deployed from a pneumatic dart projector at closest approach distance of 10 metres to whales. Maximum number of samples permitted per annum per species: 50 samples for Killer, Humpback, Blue and Fin whale; 25 samples for Minke, Sei, Grey and Sperm whale; 10 samples for Baird's Beaked, Cuvier's Beaked and North Pacific Right whale; 5 samples for Hubb's Beaked and Stejneger's Beaked whales. Collection of data on vocalisations and swimming behaviour of killer whales using data loggers fitted with flexible suction cups to be temporarily affixed to killer whale dorsal surface by 5 metre long fibreglass pole. Closest approach distance of 4 metres to whales for attachment of data logger as per research protocols. Maximum of 20 individual killer whales per annum. Collection of data on cetacean movement patterns by use of miniature surface mounted satellite tags. Closest approach distance of 4 metres to whales for attachment of tag as per research protocols. Maximum of 20 individuals per annum of the following species: Grey, Killer, Fin, Blue, Sei, Minke, Humpback and North Pacific Right whale. Collection of underwater video of cetacean behaviour by means of a pole-mounted camera deployed from vessel. Closest approach distance of 5 metres to whales for video collection. Investigation of cetacean behavioural acoustics by means of playbacks of underwater sounds. Only marine mammal sounds are permitted to be used, at source levels equal to or less than natural levels produced by vocalizing animals. Collection of data (e.g., photogrammetric measurements, breath samples) using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). UAS must be operated by trained assistants at an altitude of at least 5 meters above whales.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PAC MML SARA 15), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2005-06-21)

    The study involves the investigation of population identity, genetic diversity, and contaminant levels in cetaceans off the west coast of Canada. It is a key element of the assessment of population status of these species, as mandated by the Species-at-Risk Act. To undertake genetic and contaminant analyses, small biopsy samples are collected from free-swimming animals using a light-weight dart fired from a pneumatic dart projector. Skin samples are used for genetic analyses, and the small amount of blubber collected is used for contaminant, fatty acid and stable isotope analyses.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PAC MML SARA 16), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2005-06-21)

    Cetaceans will be approached, by researchers, for collection of photo-identification data of individuals and prey fragments for diet determination. No impact to whales or habitat is expected. The study will contribute knowledge of cetaceans and support recovery objectives for these species.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PAC MML SARA 23), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-05-11)

    Monthly line transect surveys will be conducted as part of a study to ground-truth the sighting effort of over 1500 volunteer observers. As part of these surveys the proposal is to collect photographs of the species listed to contribute to ongoing photo-identification mark-recapture studies including: ongoing monitoring of killer whale populations (resident, transient and offshore); multi-agency Structure of Populations Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks photo-id study; gray whale photo-id catalogues; Pacific white-sided dolphin photo-identification catalogue. As photo identification has been recommended in the Recovery Strategy for blue, fin and sei whales, identification photos will be collected if these species are encountered.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PAC MML SARA 46), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-08-02)

    As part of the Marine Mammal Incident Response Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitors all marine mammal and sea turtle incidents in order to take action in the case of: inappropriate or illegal human activities; to monitor disease in wild stocks; to investigate trends in other natural occurrences that may impact species survival.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005-11-16)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Species at Risk Act Legal Listing Consultation Workbook: North Pacific Right whale, Fin whale, Green sturgeon, and Bering cisco (2005-11-15)

    Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the North Pacific Right whale, Fin whale, Green sturgeon, and Bering cisco to the Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding these species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding these species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Recovery Document Posting Plan - Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (2018-09-28)

    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent Minister(s) must prepare a recovery strategy within one year of listing a species on Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered and within two years of listing a species as extirpated or threatened. A management plan must be prepared within three years for a species listed as special concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is accountable for 111 of the 518 species listed under SARA. As of February 2016, proposed recovery strategies, management plans and action plans for 57 of those species have not yet been posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. An additional 23 aquatic species have proposed management or action plans coming due in the future. The following outlines the Department’s plan for posting proposed documents for 64 species on the Species at Risk Public Registry. The Department has a plan to post recovery strategies for 9 species, management plans for 13 species, and action plans for 42 species over the next year. Original publication of the Recovery Document Posting Plan: 2016-05-02
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