Environmental Policy News

New NOAA-NASA Agreement to Advance North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Technologies

NOAA Fisheries announced a new $500,000 agreement with NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) to assist NOAA in identifying, advancing the development of, and selecting technologies to support endangered North Atlantic right whale recovery efforts. The investment is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and funded by the Inflation Reduction Act—the largest climate investment in history.

North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction, with approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. Primary threats to the species are entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes. Climate change is also affecting every aspect of their survival.

“The Inflation Reduction Act provides a historic investment to reduce threats to this imperiled species and increase monitoring through the application of new technologies that would otherwise not be possible without this funding,” said Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “Our team at NOAA Fisheries looks forward to working with NASA given its strong track record of bringing new technologies and approaches to pressing societal problems.”

Under this agreement, and in partnership with the private sector, NOAA Fisheries will seek to identify, advance and develop new technologies for satellite tags and improve whale detection to reduce the risk of vessel strikes―one of the primary threats to the survival of North Atlantic right whales. By developing new technologies, NOAA Fisheries can improve the understanding of where whales are located to allow ocean users to respond when right whales are detected.

“NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation works across NASA and other federal agencies to educate and facilitate the use of open innovation and crowdsourcing,” said Steve Rader, Program Manager for CoECI at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Open innovation provides a unique tool to further technology development and scientific discovery for the benefit of all, and we look forward to working with NOAA Fisheries on this important ecological endeavor.”

NOAA Fisheries and its partners are dedicated to recovering and conserving North Atlantic right whales. The new agreement will help NOAA Fisheries meet the objectives of the recently released North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy, and it directly supports the North Atlantic Right Whale Road to Recovery—NOAA Fisheries’ comprehensive plan to address threats to the species and monitor recovery progress. NOAA Fisheries has previously worked with NASA to organize a global technology search for innovative solutions to detect on-demand (or “ropeless”) fishing gear. This new effort will further strengthen the agencies’ partnership.

This agreement is part of NOAA Fisheries’ plans for North Atlantic right whale recovery, supported with $82 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and first announced in September 2023. These investments are part of the historic $3.3 billion in Inflation Reduction Act investments focused on ensuring America’s communities and economies are ready for and resilient to climate change.

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