The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered of all large whales: about 350-400 individuals remain. Species recovery is, in part, contingent on reducing vessel-strike mortality. Our science-based conservation program resulted in three efforts specifically designed to minimize the risk of lethal vessel-strikes of endangered baleen whales without compromising vessel navigation and safety. In Atlantic Canada, the Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) was relocated to reduce the risk of lethal vessel strikes by 90% where the original outbound lane of the TSS intersected the Right Whale Conservation Area, and an Area To Be Avoided (ATBA) adopted for Roseway Basin has demonstrated an 82% reduction in the risk of lethal vessel-strikes. In the Gulf of Maine, the Boston TSS through the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was relocated to reduce the overlap between vessels and endangered baleen whales by ~81% and by ~58% for right whales alone. This rerouting of vessels for whale conservation, as sanctioned by the International Maritime Organization, sets a precedent for national and international marine conservation policy by providing vessels with direct actions they can take to protect endangered whales – both regulated (TSS) and voluntary (ATBA). This demonstrate that despite contentious conditions, effective science-driven policy tools for conservation can be identified, made available, and implemented. The science also provides the quantitative means to measure policy efficacy through monitoring of vessel compliance and, in some cases, can increase compliance through improved real-time communications regarding whale locations in high-risk areas.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History


Beyond the Obituaries: Success Stories in Ocean Conservation

Conference Date

May 20, 2009

Publisher Place

Washington DC, USA

Document Type

Conference Proceeding