The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered whales. Once common along the eastern U.S. seaboard, the whale was hunted to near-extinction by the 1750s. While no longer pursued for its oil, meat and bones, the whale continues to be the victim of ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear, which can result in protracted, painful deaths. Right whales are declining so quickly that they may be functionally extinct by 2040 if more isn’t done to save them.
The Center has been instrumental in protecting North Atlantic right whales for more than a decade, garnering rules to slow down ships and requiring less risky fishing gear — and expanding their “critical habitat” to include 39,414 square miles of ocean.
Whales are being entangled in fishing gear off the U.S. West Coast, and the resulting suffering and death are sickening.
Please act now in demanding immediate reforms of California fishery practices to protect marine wildlife.
North Atlantic right whales are greatly threatened by seismic exploration for oil and gas, which uses high-powered airguns that can reach more than 250 decibels and cause hearing loss in marine mammals, disturb essential behaviors like feeding and breeding over vast distances, mask communications between individual whales and dolphins, and reduce catch rates of commercial fish. In May 2017 the Center and allies moved to intervene in an administrative appeal by the oil industry challenging a federal decision to reject six oil and gas exploration permits for the Atlantic Ocean. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management denied the seismic airgun survey applications in part because the loud blasts would hurt endangered North Atlantic right whales and other sensitive wildlife.
Fishing Gear Entanglement
In 2018 the Center and allies sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to prevent North Atlantic right whales from becoming ensnared in lobster trap lines. Scientists have found that entanglement is the leading cause of death for right whales, which have suffered an alarming die-off over the past year, overwhelming recovery efforts.
We're also working on limiting ship speeds off the Atlantic coast to help protect these whales from boat strikes: In December 2013, due to a petition by the Center and allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service finalized a rule setting ship speed limits to protect these giant, gentle animals from speedy vessels all along the U.S. East Coast.
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2012 petition to maintain ship speed limits in whale habitat
2010 lawsuit to expand critical habitat
2009 petition to expand critical habitat
2008 environmental impact statement to implement ship-strike reduction measures
2006 status review establishing North Atlantic right whale as distinct species
1970 Endangered Species Act listing
Contact: Miyoko Sakashita