Right Whale

Right Whales

Right whales are the most endangered of the great whales. They were hunted by whalers so mercilessly that even after 60 years of protection they are rarely seen in the North Pacific and the population of 300 whales in the North Atlantic appears to be going extinct. For centuries whalers called them the "right whale to kill" because their baleen was worth a fortune and they swim slowly and have such thick blubber that they float when dead. The whales do not cross the equator. Today the southern-hemisphere populations are larger than those in the north, but even though they number in the thousands they are far below pre-exploitation levels.

The Right Whale Program


The long-term objective of The Right Whale Program is to promote the recovery of right whales on a worldwide basis through research, conservation and education. Right whales occupy a large portion of the world's oceans. If right whales are protected, the animals that share their habitat will also be protected. The population of southern right whales that we study off Argentina is threatened by habitat destruction. We work to improve our understanding of right whales and their needs and to incorporate our findings in right whale protection plans globally and within Argentina.


For the past 30 years, the Ocean Alliance & Whale Conservation Institute (OA/ WCI) has studied a population of right whales that uses the bays of Peninsula Valdes, Argentina as a nursery ground. It is the longest continuous study of a great whale based on the indentification of known individuals. The study began in 1970 when OA/ WCI president Roger Payne discovered that he could tell individual right whales apart by the differing patterns of white marks on their heads. Roger realized that by following the lives of individuals, he could learn far more about the whales than was being learned by whalers studying the animals they killed. Today, many of the animals that Roger identified in 1970 continue to return to the Peninsula but now they have new calves, and they are joined by their daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. The longevity of the study increases its value exponentially as the years pass.

The Ocean Alliance is following the lives of more than 1300 different known individuals. Through annual surveys of the whales and focused investigations, Ocean Alliance has created a detailed picture of right whale biology and an invaluable record of the population's growth, distribution and preferences. Our discoveries provide information that is used in the design of recovery plans for this endangered species throughout the world.

Join us in our efforts to protect this endangered whale! Click Here.
Oceans Matter
Did You Know

A 12,000 pound orca or killer whale (Free Willy) can leap 15 to 20 feet up into the air.