Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service released details of their final plan to reduce the number of North Atlantic right whales who become entangled in the heavy ropes used in commercial lobster and crab fishing gear. Only approximately 360 right whales remain in the ocean, due in large part to such entanglements, and although they needed bold action to reduce this unsustainable death rate, this rule is insufficient to turn the tide.
Over the years, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s efforts to protect the species have repeatedly fallen short. Because the agency’s latest effort to address entanglements offers no significant new measures to reduce risk, it seems inevitable that it will fail as well. While the final rule includes some new fishing closures, to be truly effective, the National Marine Fisheries Service needs to significantly expand the size and timing of seasonal fishing closures when right whales are known to be in those waters.
Unfortunately, the plan is inadequate to effectively slow the species’ decline toward extinction and we are extremely disappointed that the agency did not take stronger action given the threats these whales face from human interactions.