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Recovery Strategy for the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) in Atlantic Canadian Waters [Proposed]

Recovery Strategy for the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) in Atlantic Canadian Waters

North Atlantic Right Whale

 North Atlantic Right Whale


About the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Recovery Strategy Series


What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recoveryof wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”


What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened or extirpated species is arrested or reversed, and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.


What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37–46 of SARA spell out both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series (https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/approach/act/default_e.cfm ).

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.


What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated. 

To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/) and the web site of the Recovery Secretariat

( http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/recovery/default_e.cfm).


Recovery Strategy for the North AtlanticRight Whale

(Eubalaena glacialis) in Atlantic Canadian Waters [PROPOSED]


January 2009

Recommended citation:


Brown, M.W., Fenton, D., Smedbol, K., Merriman, C., Robichaud-Leblanc, K., and Conway, J.D. 2008. Recovery Strategy for the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) in Atlantic Canadian Waters [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. vi + 63p.


Additional copies:

You can download additional copies from the SARA Public Registry



Cover illustration:

The cover illustration depicts a female North Atlantic right whale known as Arpeggio, catalogue number 2753.  Born in 1997, Arpeggio is a poster child for what right whales do, what they are exposed to, and what tools researchers use to learn about their life history and the threats facing their recovery. She has ranged from the calving ground along the coast of eastern Florida to the Bay of Fundy and has been photographed in each year of her life in several different habitat areas.  She was entangled briefly in 1999 at the age of 2½, and survived a hit by a small vessel at the age of eight. She has been exposed to almost every type of research: tagging to learn about dive profiles and response to sound playback, skin sampling to learn about her genetic profile, and ultrasound measurements to assess her health.  She has recently had her first calf on the calving grounds in Florida.

Cover illustration credit:

Scott Landry, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

Également disponible en français sous le titre

using «Programme de rétablissement de la baleine noire (Eubalaena glacialis) de l’Atlantique Nord »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries

and Oceans, 2008. All rights reserved.

ISBN (ISBN to be included by SARA Responsible Agency)

Catalogue no. (Catalogue no. to be included by SARA Responsible Agency)

Content (excluding the cover illustration) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


The recovery strategy for the North Atlantic right whale has been prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in cooperation with members of the Recovery Team as indicated under Authors. This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations on the recovery goals, approaches and objectives that are recommended to protect and recover the species.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans invites all Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the species and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will support implementation of this strategy to the extent possible, given available resources and its overall responsibility for species at risk conservation. Implementation of the strategy by other participating jurisdictions and organizations is subject to their respective policies, appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new information. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will report on progress within five years.

This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of the species. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible, Canadians interested in or affected by these measures will be consulted.



Under the Species at Risk Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the responsible jurisdiction for the North Atlantic right whale.



This document was written by Moira Brown, Derek Fenton, Kent Smedbol, Cathy Merriman, Kimberly Robichaud-LeBlanc and Jerry Conway in cooperation with the Right Whale Recovery Implementation Team (see Recovery Team Members list).



DFO acknowledges all participants of the Recovery Team for their dedicated efforts in providing information, expertise and perspectives in the development of this recovery strategy.  The National Recovery Plan prepared by the Right Whale Recovery Team for the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2000 (WWF/DFO 2000) provided the foundation for the development of this document.  DFO is grateful to the drafting team (see ‘Authors’) who further revised the document as per SARA Recovery Strategy content requirements and updated with new information since the publication of the 2000 Plan.  Additionally, DFO acknowledges the invaluable input provided by the broader interested public in the consultation process (see Appendix C for a record of consultations).



A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The recovery planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly in the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the North Atlantic right whale. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered; however, because the recovery objectives recommend additional research on the species and education and outreach initiatives, the SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects.



SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or

hibernating[SARA S2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry:




The North Atlantic right whale is a marine mammal and is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species.

The North Atlantic right whale was listed as endangered under SARA in January 2005. Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Maritimes Region, led the development of this recovery strategy. The proposed strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41).


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