For Immediate Release

Aug. 31, 2023

Priscilla Feral, president, Friends of Animals 203.656.1522;

Fishing gear entanglement from lobster and Jonah crab fishers and strikes by pleasure boats, charter-fishing boats and commercial vessels traveling too fast are killing so many North Atlantic Right Whales that fewer than 340 remain, including no more than 70 breeding females. Since 2017, there have been 36 dead Right Whales and 78 injured or ill. 

That’s why it’s reprehensible that House Republican members of Congress recently inserted language into the FY2024 budget to prohibit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association from protecting Right Whales by making sure more boats slow down.

Friends of Animals is pressing Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), as well as other members of Congress,to immediately repeal the strike-through amendment that would prohibit NOAA’s proposed amendments to the North Atlantic Right Whale vessel speed rule before the budget passes in the next several weeks. Whitehouse chairs the Senate Budget Committee and signed on, with the others, to multiple letters demanding protections for the most endangered whale on the planet.

“These massive, 52-foot long, magical Right Whales spend a lot of time at or close to the water surface travelling from Florida to Massachusetts, and they can be very difficult to spot due to their dark color and lack of a dorsal fin,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, an animal advocacy organization that has long campaigned on behalf of marine mammals and their habitats. “Being extra vigilant and slowing down—just as you would in a school zone—matters. Their lives depend on it. We don’t let cars speed through school zones.”

NOAA’s proposed rule would broaden the geographic areas where boats are required to slow to 10 knots (11.5 mph) during seasons (mainly the fall and winter) when Right Whales are likely in the area. The new slow zones would cover the East Coast from northern Florida to Massachusetts, filling in gaps where no restrictions currently exist. The new rules would apply to vessels 35 feet in length or greater, vs. the 65-foot measure currently in place. (Three of the four known vessel strike events that involved mothers and calves since 2020 involved vessels between 35 and 65 feet in length.)

“These critically endangered whales need a chance to rebuild their population and NOAA’s proposed rule would do just that,” Feral added. “It is a national disgrace that some legislators will stop at nothing to exempt the fishing industry and other commercial interests from regulatory requirements like reducing speed limits. It’s remarkable that Republicans are taking the side of the reckless whale killers.”

In another sleazy move to thwart NOAA’s efforts, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican whose district includes Georgia’s 100-mile coast, also introduced a bill on June 21 that would prohibit NOAA from spending federal dollars to implement the rule change until its parent agency, the Department of Commerce, develops and deploys new technology to monitor Atlantic waters for Right Whales. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas.