North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Advisory System

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photo credit:  NEFSC/Allison Henry
photo credit: NEFSC/Peter Duley

The Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (RWSAS) is a NOAA Fisheries program which was designed to reduce collisions between ships and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) by alerting mariners to the presence of the right whales. These reports are obtained from a variety of sources including aerial surveys, shipboard surveys, whale watch vessels, and opportunistic sources (Coast Guard, commercial ships, fishing vessels, and the general public). 

In 2009, the Right Whale Sighting Advisory System was re-engineered to support new regulations to reduce the threat of ship collisions (50 CFR Part 224). The regulations established speed restrictions of 10 knots for all vessels length 65 ft (19.8 m) or greater within Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs). The SMAs encompass high-risk areas along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard where right whales predictably and consistently occur each year. 

When three or more right whales are sighted outside of SMAs, Dynamic Management Areas (DMAs) are put in place for two weeks that encompass an area commensurate to the number of whales present. Mariners are notified of DMAs via email, the internet, Broadcast Notice to Mariners (BNM), NOAA Weather Radio, and the Mandatory Ship Reporting system (MSR), and are requested to reduce their speed when transiting through DMAs.

Report a right whale sighting

-- Call 866-755-6622 (Virginia to Maine)

-- Call 877-WHALE-HELP (Florida to North Carolina)

-- Contact the U.S. Coast Guard via channel 16

-- Report via the WhaleAlert iPhone/iPad app

right whale sign

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