Right Whale Research team responds to federal appeals court decision to reinstate lobster fishing closure in the Gulf of Maine


BOSTON, MASS. (Nov. 17, 2021) – In response to a federal appeals court ruling that will reinstate a crucial protection measure off the Maine coast for critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, the New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research team is releasing the below statement. Scientists are available for interviews upon request.

“The federal appeals court ruling reinstating this important seasonal fishing area closure in the Gulf of Maine is a critical regulatory step to protect North Atlantic right whales from the impacts of human activities. Since September 1, there have been numerous visual and acoustic sightings in the Gulf of Maine, including eight times in the closure area. Right whales are often entangled in fishing gear, resulting in severe injuries and deaths. The latest estimate shows that the North Atlantic right whale population dropped to 336 in 2020, an eight percent decrease from 2019 and a 30 percent decrease since 2011. Research shows that known deaths represent a fraction of the true death toll, yet even one death each year increases the odds that this critically endangered species will go extinct. For 40 years, the New England Aquarium has worked collaboratively to save right whales from extinction, guided by the science that shows a clear path forward for preventing unnecessary entanglement-related deaths. Fishers and researchers are working together throughout New England and Canada to implement reduced breaking strength ropes and to advance ropeless technologies, the pathway forward for the survival of the species and a flourishing fishing industry. This is a resilient species that can recover, but only with dramatic protection measures throughout their range along the East Coast.”

map of the Gulf of Maine
This image from Whale Map shows right whale detections from September 1-November 17, 2021 in the Gulf of Maine, including the closure area.


Pam Bechtold Snyder –, 617-686-5068