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NOAA announced this week that it is extending its ship speed protections for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale until Nov. 15 in waters off of southern New England and east of Long Island, New York. According to the latest population estimate, there are even fewer endangered North Atlantic right whales than previously thought. The number of right whales is now estimated at only 366 — down from 412 — with only 94 females able to give birth. As WBUR reported, Right Whales have “struggled with poor reproduction and high mortality over the last decade.” Over 200 of them have died over the past decade, all because of humans. The primary culprits? Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
Right now, ship speed restrictions are only mandatory for vessels 65 feet and longer. There are also seasonal restrictions along the East Coast, from New England down to the whales’ calving groups off the coast of Florida and Georgia. Expanding the areas and times with mandatory restrictions protections is even more important because the climate crisis is shifting right whales’ migration patterns, making it harder to predict exactly where they will be. Warmer waters are changing the locations of the plankton they feed on; this was the first year in the past 40 that not a single right whale was spotted in Canada’s Bay of Fundy.
Another protective measure is shifting to ropeless fishing. Right now, fishing for lobster or snow crab means using a trap or pot connected to a surface buoy by a thick, heavy rope. Whales get entangled in that rope, which can dig into their bodies and get trapped in their baleen, leading to injuries, starvation, and death. Ropeless fishing eliminates that threat.
To Go Deeper: Check out the New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Catalog. Every right whale alive today is cataloged there, as are whales that have died over the years. Many whales have names, like Fermata or Quasimodo.
This week, we have featured this series of videos by the Environmental Defense Fund about the impacts climate change is having on the ocean as observed by the people who live and work there — fishermen and women. Their stories have been compelling and provided a sense of the ways that climate change is harming and shifting global fish stocks.
Why This Matters: On Tuesday, pursuant to President Biden’s climate executive order, NOAA announced: “an agency-wide effort to gather initial public input” on “how to make fisheries, including aquaculture, and protected resources more resilient to climate change.
It’s not just men in the fishing sector who are impacted by climate change, overfishing, and COVID-19 — women are too. Women like Alexia Jaurez of Sonora, Mexico, who is featured in this Environmental Defense Fund video, do the important work of monitoring the catch and the price, and most importantly determining how many more […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Last summer, Florida created its first aquatic preserve in over 30 years. The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve protects about 400,000 acres of seagrass just north of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast. These are part of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest seagrass bed and borders other existing preserves, creating a […]
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