For more information about these majestic mammals, visit the New England Aquarium.

Did You Know?

  • North Atlantic right whales can weigh up to 60-70 tons, grow up to 15 m (49 feet) in length and live as long as 70 years.
  • Right whales can dive to at least 600 ft. and can stay submerged for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • They were called "right whales" because whalers believed they were the "right" ones to hunt since they were slow swimmers, floated after death and often swam within sight from shore.
  • Although protected for more than 75 years from hunting, the current population is estimated to be over 500 in the North Atlantic.
  • North Atlantic right whales are seasonally migratory. They inhabit colder waters for feeding in the spring, summer and fall, and then in the winter months mothers and some juveniles migrate to warmer waters for calving along the northeast coast of Florida.
  • North Atlantic right whales have distinctive patches of roughened skin called callosities. Since no two whales have the same pattern of callosities, researchers use them to identify individual whales and learn more about them every year.

North Atlantic right whale

The Bay of Fundy is an environmental phenomenon - with the highest tides in the world, the bay is abundant with plankton, making this area a natural habitat for a variety of species including the rare North Atlantic right whale. The Bay of Fundy is also a commercial lifeline for thousands of businesses in the North Atlantic region. An average of 800 ships a year use the government-established shipping lanes through these waters.

Over a decade ago, it was in this delicate balance between commerce and nature that the North Atlantic right whale was in steep decline. Ship collisions with whales were threatening the already endangered population. Research showed that the shipping lanes at that time were running directly through the North Atlantic right whale’s feeding grounds in the summer and fall months.

That's why we chose to partner with the New England Aquarium and other concerned groups to help find a practical, science-based solution to the issue. Senior Irving Oil representatives participated along with whale scientists from the New England Aquarium, government agencies, fishers, Canadian academics, environmental groups and others to learn more, build awareness and find a safe solution.

By 2003, these collective efforts led the Canadian government to implement a four nautical mile shipping lane change to avoid the area with the greatest density of whales -- the first time shipping lanes had ever been altered to protect an endangered species.

According to North Atlantic right whale researchers at the New England Aquarium and Dalhousie University, moving the shipping lanes has reduced the relative probability of a ship strike by 90 percent. Prior to the lane change about 30 percent of North Atlantic right whale sightings were in the shipping lanes; after the lane change, less than 2 percent of the North Atlantic right whales are now observed in the lanes.

Today, our work on behalf of the North Atlantic right whale continues as a corporate partner in conservation for the New England Aquarium’s North Atlantic right whale research program. During feeding season in the summer months, researchers continue to track this endangered species, investigating additional ways to protect the remaining 500 North Atlantic right whales in existence. Irving Oil representatives are also part of further protection efforts through the Right Whale Recovery Team. In 2009, the Grand Manan Basin Conservation Area was designated as a Critical Habitat under the Species at Risk Act.