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For Immediate Release, June 7, 2013

Contact:  Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

After Years of Delay, Agency Finally Releases Recovery Plan for
Endangered North Pacific Right Whale in Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska

Plan to Help Whales Jump-started by Threat of Lawsuit

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— Following the Center for Biological Diversity’s 2012 notice of intent to sue, the National Marine Fisheries Service today published a recovery plan for the highly endangered North Pacific right whale. The North Pacific right whale is thought to be the world’s most endangered large whale, with as few as 30 individuals in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska and perhaps a few hundred in Russia’s Okhotsk Sea.

“We’re thrilled the Fisheries Service has finally launched this long-overdue effort to turn the tide away from extinction for these amazing, deeply endangered whales,” said the Center’s Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin. “With just a few dozen right whales left in Alaska, there’s no question they need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act to have a chance of survival.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fisheries Service is required to issue and implement a plan for the conservation and recovery of all ocean species listed by the Act. North Pacific right whales have been listed as “northern right whales” since 1973 and since 2008 as a species in their own right, but these critically endangered animals have had no recovery plan. On March 20, 2012, the Center sent the Fisheries Service a formal notice of intent to sue the agency for failing to protect the whales. The Fisheries Service published a draft recovery plan in January.

“Recovery plans are crucial tools for saving species from extinction and recovering them to the point that they don’t need federal help anymore,” said Noblin. “While the current plan focuses primarily on studying these elusive whales, we encourage the Fisheries Service to use what it learns to put concrete protections in place.”

Dubbed right whales because they were the “right whale to hunt,” North Pacific right whales numbered as many as 20,000 before the advent of commercial whaling. Today the few remaining individuals are extremely vulnerable to ship strikes, oil development and spills, and entanglement in fishing gear. With so few in existence, the loss of even one whale could threaten the entire population.

Read more about the Center’s campaign to protect North Pacific right whales.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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