There are an estimated 350 North Atlantic right whales in existence. Most, if not all, will pass along the Massachusetts coast between now and late spring.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, "Every winter, many right whales migrate more than 1,000 miles. The right whales travel from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the warm, shallow coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida's east coast."

"These southern waters are the only known place where right whales give birth and nurse their young," according to NOAA.

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In the spring, the right whales begin the slow migration north to their feeding and mating grounds in the Gulf of Maine and the eastern Canadian Atlantic.


According to, as recently as early April 2023, "Between 60 -70 right whales, including a mother and calf, were seen feeding outside the east end of the Cape Cod Canal in the Cape Cod Bay."

Several North Atlantic right whales were spotted in the Cape Cod Canal this season, prompting a temporary shutdown of the canal to marine traffic to allow safe passage.

Spring Migration Of Right Whales Off The Massachusetts Coast
Courtesy Suzanne Lewis O'Shea

During migration seasons, the whales might visit Plymouth Harbor and other near-shore locations in search of food.

"While right whale casualties are not well documented, entanglement in fishing gear is one of the greatest threats to the animal, according to NOAA, killing at least nine right whales since 2017," NPR reported.

Anyone spotting a right whale, especially a dead, injured or entangled whale, is encouraged to contact NOAA Fisheries at (877) WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343) or the Coast Guard on marine VHS Channel 16.

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