Whales and Protection: 50 Years Since the Endangered Species Act Was Enacted.

NOAA Fisheries (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and partners convened an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the discovery of the Rice’s whale, and recent advancements in marine mammal research and conservation.

NOAA 50th Anniversary poster - Endangered Species Act 2023

NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service share responsibility for implementing the Endangered Species Act. We are responsible for most marine species, including whales, seals, sharks, and coral. We also implement measures to protect anadromous species—ones that migrate between fresh and saltwater.

2023 marked the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Under this law, NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the conservation and recovery of more than 160 endangered and threatened marine species—including many marine mammals. The Act has been overwhelmingly successful in preventing their extinction during the last 50 years and has also put many species on the path to recovery.

A recent event hosted at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Whales on the Brink: Stories from Rice’s Whale Discovery and Right Whale Tales, highlighted the ongoing dedication to this effort. NOAA Fisheries, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Marine Mammal Commission, and other partners organized and supported the event. The goal of the symposium was to bring attention to the plight of three endangered large whale species: Rice’s whales, North Pacific right whales, and North Atlantic right whales. Experts from the marine mammal scientific research, conservation, and management communities shared the current state of knowledge and the efforts being undertaken to conserve these species.  

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