Emergency Right Whale Protections Still Needed to Reverse Declines

Pew, partners seek response from commerce secretary on request for urgent action

Emergency Right Whale Protections Still Needed to Reverse Declines

On Nov. 9, The Pew Charitable Trusts and its partners sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo seeking a response to a petition they submitted to her office July 22 regarding protection of critically endangered right whales. That petition called on her to prohibit the use of fishing gear that entangles right whales in certain waters off New England when the whales are likely to be present.

In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service—the federal agency with authority for protecting marine wildlife—issued new regulations for the lobster industry to reduce the risk of entangling right whales. However, these regulations will not do enough to reduce the risk of entanglement, so Pew and its partners continue to call for emergency closures to reverse the decline of the right whale population.

North Atlantic right whale
North Atlantic right whale
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Seeking Immediate Protection for Right Whales

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In June 2020, The Pew Charitable Trusts petitioned the secretary of commerce to take emergency action to protect right whales from entanglement by closing high-risk areas to fishing gear with ropes, and since then, the crisis for this critically endangered species has only deepened.

Right whales
Right whales
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East Coast Residents Support Protecting Right Whales

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North Atlantic right whales are caught in a dramatic downward spiral that began in 2010, having lost more than 100 animals from a population of only around 500. Even with recent births, scientists put the number of whales at only about 350 at the end of 2019, the most recent year for which an estimate is available.

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