Statement: NOAA proposes important updates to right whale protections that seek to prevent species’ extinction

Media Contacts
Josh Chetwynd

Michaela Morris

Public will be invited to comment

Environment America Research & Policy Center

BOSTON — Critically endangered North Atlantic right whales may soon see updated protections, after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) posted a draft of their proposed rule to protect the species from fishing gear entanglements online on Wednesday. 

This news comes on the heels of a bad season for the whales. In the last few months, there were two entanglements and the death of a newborn calf. Scientists now estimate that only 366 of the whales remain in our oceans. 

The proposed rule includes an option to seasonally close certain right whale habitats to fishing with persistent, vertical lines. Traditional vertical fishing lines, which extend from the surface to the sea floor, threaten the safety of the species; whales often become entangled in lines while swimming. Closure of certain right whale habitats to these lines reduces the chances of entanglement. 

In addition to proposing seasonal habitat closures, the draft rule, which will be officially published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Dec. 31, also recommends the adoption of weaker fishing ropes and stipulates rules for gear marking, which will allow agencies to better determine the source gear wrapped around entangled whales. 

Following the rule’s publication, the public will be invited to comment during a 60-day comment period. 

Environment America Research & Policy Center Oceans Associate Michaela Morris issued the following statement: 

“With only 366 of these amazing animals left in our oceans, our time to act is limited to protect these majestic sea mammals. We can’t let this species disappear on our watch. 

“So, over the next 60 days, we must show NOAA that we want to do what it takes to save the species. It’s up to everyone out there who not only loves our oceans but also its whales and sea animals to make sure we push the strongest possible protections over the finish line.”