North Atlantic Right Whale Status Upgraded to Critically Endangered - Oceana Canada

North Atlantic Right Whale Status Upgraded to Critically Endangered

Press Release Date: July 9, 2020

Species faces extremely high risk of extinction. Oceana Canada says time is now for Transport Canada to make ship slowdown in the Cabot Strait mandatory to help save them.

OTTAWA – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced today that it has changed the status of North Atlantic right whales from endangered to critically endangered, IUCN’s highest risk category for wild species. This classification means the North Atlantic right whale population has or will decrease by 80 per cent within three generations and is facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

Oceana Canada issued the following statement in response, calling on the Canadian government to make the slowdown zone in the Cabot Strait mandatory. The area has heavy shipping traffic and is a key passage for these whales to their feeding grounds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

“Following the recent death of a right whale calf by ship strike and the fact that more whales have died than were born in recent years, we are not surprised to see this upgrade in status to critically endangered. Every death brings this species closer to extinction,” said Kim Elmslie, Campaign Director, Oceana Canada. “Canada has an obligation to protect these whales that are an important part of the ocean ecosystem. Our data shows that the majority of ships are not slowing down when passing through the voluntary slowdown zone in the Cabot Strait. The government can and should immediately make this slowdown mandatory.” 

Elmslie added, “With only around 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, we have no more time to waste. The government must act now and do everything in its power to protect them.” 

Oceana Canada will release a full report on vessel speed compliance in the Cabot Strait later in July. Read the preliminary data analysis at

Contact: Tammy Thorne,, 437-247-0954

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.