The North Atlantic right whale is a beloved species that traverses the waters of the US East Coast. Nevertheless, right whales are in serious jeopardy of extinction, with a mere 400 or so thought to remain. So far this year, eight whales of this dwindling population are known to have died—four of them confirmed within a 48-hour period in June. The situation is desperate.
The greatest threats to right whales are entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes. Current statistics show that 85 percent of North Atlantic right whales bear scars from being entangled in gear at least once in their lives, while over half bear scars from being entangled two or more times. The bodies of those right whales who died this year show evidence of both.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—the US government agency responsible for preserving and recovering right whales—has acknowledged that "a primary cause of significant injury and mortality of North Atlantic right whales is entanglement in fishing gear." Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, has called for immediate action to save the North Atlantic right whale.
Indeed, it is imperative that NOAA do all it can to mitigate the risks to right whales posed by vessels and fishing gear and not succumb to pressure from the fishing and lobster industry to back away from the challenge. The federal government is currently considering new rules for the US lobster and Jonah crab fishery, in order to reduce the risk this fishery poses to endangered right whales, and you can help ensure the government stays committed to right whale protection.
Be sure to share this alert with friends and family and ask them to submit comments as well. Thank you for helping to protect right whales!
NOAA is accepting public comments on recommendations from the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team that aim to achieve a 60 to 80 percent reduction in mortalities and serious injuries of right whales in US waters. You can help by submitting written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator at NOAA.