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Why This Matters: There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic Right Whales remaining. NOAA had promised the new rules by the end of last year, then by March, then July. Now NOAA says proposed rules won’t come until “late summer or early fall,” depending on a review by White House. The President was just in Maine and got an earful from lobster fishers, which begs the question of whether there has been political interference to keep the protections tied up in the agency.
Lobster and Crab Pots Entangle Whales
There are two issues facing Right Whales and causing their deaths — collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear with vertical lines that go from the surface to the seafloor, like traditional lobster and crab pots. There are tens of thousands of pots (and millions of lines) in the waters off New England now, and this is also the season when North Atlantic Right Whales tend to congregate there. According to Pew’s petition, “deaths and serious injuries of right whales continue to be well over what the population can biologically sustain, and more than four times the legally allowable limit. Entanglement in gear is the biggest threat to the species’ survival.” They further allege that NOAA is out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act because their scientific opinion on whether and how the lobster and crab fisheries harm the whales is out of date, the agency has not given the fisheries a permit to “take whales” (i.e. to go ahead and fish despite whale deaths). Indeed, NOAA Fisheries has done nothing to increase protections for the North Atlantic right whale since 2014, and since then their numbers have declined precipitously.
Pew argues that closing “some areas to fishing with the most harmful gear could immediately lower the risk to the whales while the federal government develops longer-term rules to reduce whale entanglements in fishing gear.” The Court now must rule on whether the agency can further delay issuing rules to protect the Right Whale. Lobster fishers might be willing to consider a new type of fishing gear that has no rope lines, but so far the agency has not required it and it is currently very expensive.
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer A new legal petition filed by conservation organizations urges the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to “formally certify China for illegally trading in critically imperiled pangolins,” the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in a statement. If certification occurs, the US could pursue sanctions and prohibit wildlife imports from China. […]
The outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world that zoonotic diseases are a major threat to human health. Yet, viruses that spread from animals to humans don’t have to occur in wet markets or through illicit wildlife trade, captive animals can also spread them due to the stress and proximity to humans that occur in […]
All but a few populations of polar bears found in the high Arctic could be extinct by 2100 due to the drastic loss of sea ice across their range, according to a study in the Journal Nature Climate Change published Monday. Without ice, polar bears must survive on land, long distances from their food supplies, causing them to go hungry.
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