The right whale is the most endangered species of whale off the coast of the United States. It was the first whale hunted by American whalers, and it was so depleted that it has not recovered despite being protected for over 50 years.
Adult right whales are generally between 45 and 55 feet (13.7-16.7 meters) in length and can weigh up to 70 tons (63,500 kilograms). Females right whales are larger than males. Like many whales, right whales feed on schools of small, shrimp-like crustaceans. They may also eat small fish near the ocean floor.
North Atlantic right whales inhabit the Atlantic Ocean, particularly between 20° and 60° latitude. It is believed that about 300-400 individual right whales live in the western North Atlantic, while the population in the eastern North Atlantic is probably only numbering in the low tens of animals. These whales are thus listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
Ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear are the most common human causes of serious injury and mortality of western North Atlantic right whales today. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has taken steps to reduce the threat of ship collisions and gear entanglement.