The Pew Charitable Trusts sent a letter Jan. 25 to acting Commerce Secretary Wynn Coggins to again request federal action to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from entanglement in fishing gear in U.S. waters. This request follows Pew’s June 18 petition and Oct. 23 letter, which were sent to agency leaders during the Trump administration.
Recent science shows an even worse situation for the right whale population than was previously believed. Late last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for protecting right whales, released preliminary findings that point to a significant undercount of deaths in the population, meaning there are even fewer right whales living than official estimates suggested. But the agency’s proposed rule, released on the last day of 2020, did not take that science into account and probably would take a year to implement on the water after approval, strengthening the argument for the secretary of commerce to take emergency action to protect these whales from entanglement.