On January 27, 2016, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule designating approximately 29,763 nautical square miles of marine habitat for the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). The critical habitat is comprised of two areas, with the first region in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank and the second region off the southeastern United States, extending from Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The final rule replaces prior critical habitat designations issued on June 3, 1994 and July 6, 2006. According to NMFS, the areas designated as critical habitat provides critical feeding, nursery, and calving habitat for the population.

Right whales were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1970. In 2006, NMFS published a comprehensive right whale status update, in which NMFS determined that genetic data supported distinguishing three right whale lineages as separate species. Based on these findings, NMFS published final listing determinations for the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and southern hemisphere right whales as separate endangered species under the ESA.

The revised critical habitat designation is in response to a petition submitted in 2009 requesting that NMFS revisit the prior designations.