What to Know About Right Whale Day

On April 24, 2023, the Aquarium is celebrating the first-ever Right Whale Day here in Massachusetts. Learn how this brand-new state holiday got its start and the actions we can all take to protect right whales.

By New England Aquarium on Friday, April 21, 2023

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One ocean advocate’s idea inspired a state holiday

Right Whale Day began as a grassroots effort to raise awareness about right whales and promote conservation of this critically endangered species. After an emotional encounter with a right whale off Race Point, Provincetown, in April of 2004, South Shore native Matt Delaney and his family “fell in love” with right whales. Ever since, the Delaneys have celebrated “Whale Day” on April 24 to remember the experience.

“We learned so much about North Atlantic right whales, especially about their decline in numbers,” Delaney said. “We realized this magnificent species could go extinct in our lifetime.”

So, during the spring of 2020, after getting an email from one of his daughters about the eighteenth right whale calf spotted that year, Delaney had a thought: What if everyone celebrated Whale Day? He called Representative Josh Cutler (D-Plymouth) to share his idea, and Representative Cutler became the lead sponsor of legislation to designate April 24 as Right Whale Day in the Commonwealth.

“Right Whale Day” spotlights the issues facing our state’s marine mammal

When Delaney first shared the idea for Whale Day with Representative Cutler, Cutler suggested designating “Whale Day” to celebrate right whales, specifically, given the species’ conservation status—and the fact that they were already the state marine mammal.

“The North Atlantic right whale is part of our state’s rich maritime history and yet, our official state marine mammal is at risk of extinction,” Representative Cutler said. Cutler filed the bill and, working alongside Senator Susan Moran and colleagues in the State House and Senate, made Right Whale Day in Massachusetts a reality. As one of his last acts as governor, Charlie Baker officially designated April 24 as Right Whale Day in Massachusetts.

“We’re grateful to former governor Baker for signing it into law,” Representative Cutler said.

exterior entrance to the aquarium
A life-sized inflatable of Calvin (Catalog #2223) will be on display at the Aquarium for Right Whale Day

More public awareness can lead to better protections

In commemorating Right Whale Day, “the biggest goal from the very beginning was to create more public awareness,” said Delaney. Right whales are one of the world’s most endangered large whales, with only 350 individuals remaining. The major threats they face include fishing gear entanglements, vessel strikes, and climate change.

Through the Aquarium’s research, we know that actions like transitioning to on-demand fishing gear, which eliminates the long lead lines that entangle whales, and expanding vessel speed restrictions can help reduce human-caused impacts on right whales. Delaney and Representative Cutler hope that celebrating Right Whale Day inspires more people to take action to protect these important animals, including by supporting recent legislation filed by Cutler, which establishes a grant program for expanding the research and implementation of ropeless fishing gear.

“I hope that establishing this annual day to celebrate right whales will help promote education and protection efforts and start new conversations about how we can find solutions to co-exist with our valued fishing industry,” Cutler said.

As for the event planned at the Aquarium during Right Whale Day, both Delaney and Representative Cutler are looking forward to welcoming the public to join in celebrating right whales—and they’re hopeful the excitement can generate sustained action for the species. As the story of Right Whale Day shows, one person’s actions can help make a big difference.

“I’m proud to be the lead sponsor of legislation creating this Right Whale Day, but the credit really should go to my constituent Matt Delaney, who came to me with this idea after a personal encounter that inspired him to action,” Representative Cutler said.

young aquarium visitors at information table
Visitors can pledge their support for right whales at the Aquarium on April 24

Actions you can take to protect right whales:

Spread awareness about the situation facing right whales, and the threats they encounter in the ocean

Support whale-safe fishing and ask about the source of your seafood in restaurants or the grocery store

Encourage your state legislator to support H.773, An Act Establishing a Gear Fisheries Conservation Gear Grant Program, filed by Representative Josh Cutler

Be aware of whales when you’re on the water, keeping at least 500 yards away

Report right whale sightings to NOAA (866-755-6622) and the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog

Sign our statement of support for right whale protections in this online petition [Editor’s note: this online petition is no longer active]


Make a Difference for Right Whales

These critically endangered animals need our help. See how you can get involved with the Aquarium’s work to protect right whales.