Fishing gear entanglement and strikes by vessels traveling too fast are killing so many North Atlantic right whales that fewer than 340 remain, including fewer than 70 breeding females. Right whales are at heightened risk for vessel strikes because they spend a lot of time at or close to the water surface and they can be very difficult to spot from a boat due to their dark color and lack of a dorsal fin.
And House Republican members of Congress have the gall to introduce legislation and insert language into the FY2024 budget to prohibit the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) from protecting right whales by making sure boats slow down.
Extinction is forever. Please act now by contacting your U.S. representatives and senators in Congress and tell them to remove language from the FY2024 budget that would prohibit NOAA’s proposed amendments to the North Atlantic right whale vessel speed rule. You can find your U.S. Senators here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm. You can find your U.S. Representatives here: https://www.house.gov/representatives.
It is a national disgrace that these legislators will stop at nothing to exempt the fishing industry from regulatory requirements like reducing speed limits. We don’t let cars speed through school zones.
NOAA is proposing to amend its 2008 right whale ship strike rule to cover broader geographic areas and times (mainly the fall and winter) when the whales are known to be most at risk, and to apply the rule to vessels 35 feet in length or greater. These changes are necessary because the climate crisis has caused right whales to shift their habitat use into areas and time of year not protected by the current rule.
Since 2017, there have been 36 dead right whales, 33 seriously injured and 45 sub-lethally injured or ill.
Without amended regulations to reduce the speed of these vessels to 10 knots or less in key areas and at times of greatest risk, unsustainable numbers of vessel strikes will continue, putting the species survival at risk.