Northern right whales were once found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. These whales inhabit the temperate and subpolar waters of the north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans. In the North Pacific they are found from about 25 to 60 degrees north and in the North Atlantic from about 30 to 75 degrees north. Northwest Atlantic populations occur from Iceland to the Gulf of Mexico, with largest concentrations occurring between Nova Scotia, Canada, and Florida. Winter calving grounds occur off the coasts of Florida and Georgia.
Right whales move from subpolar regions with the onset of winter to lower latitudes, staying near land masses. Some good areas to see them are from Cape Cod north to the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia and Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick.
Northern Pacific populations are isolated from Northern Atlantic populations and are genetically distinct. These populations are sometimes referred to as Eubalaena japonica, Northern Pacific right whales, and occur from the southeastern Bering Sea to the Okhotsk Sea off western Russia. Northern Pacific populations may be more closely related to southern right whales, Eubalaena australis, than to Northern Atlantic populations of northern right whales (Northern Atlantic right whales).
Biogeographic Regions: arctic ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )
- Rosenbaum, H., R. Brownell, M. Brown, C. Schaeff, V. Portway, B. White, S. Malik, L. Pastene, N. Patenaude, C. Baker, M. Goto, P. Best, P. Clapham, P. Hamilton, M. Moore, R. Payne, V. Rowntree, C. Tynan, J. Bannister, R. DeSalle. 2000. World-wide genetic differentiation of Eubalaena: questioning the number of right whale species.. Molecular Ecology, 9: 1793-1802. Accessed December 01, 2003 at http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/psb/pubs/rosenbaummolecol.pdf.