Thousands urge NOAA to save right whales

Media Contacts
Michaela Morris

Outpouring of support calls for agency to do more in order to give the species a fighting chance at survival

Environment America

BOSTON — Environment America along with a partner organization, Environmental Action, called on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to take actions necessary to save the highly endangered right whale. The groups delivered 22,000 petition signatures, a sign-on letter featuring the signatures of faculty members at universities across the country, and a three-page organizational comment to NOAA on Monday. 

The signature delivery came on the final day of NOAA’s public comment period for a draft rule to protect critically endangered right whales from fishing gear entanglements. The draft rule, published by NOAA on Dec. 31, 2020, doesn’t go far enough to give the species a fighting chance at survival. 

“I am heartened by the outpouring of support — from residents of Maine to residents of Minnesota and California — for saving this special species,” said Environment America Oceans Associate Michaela Morris. “We now must transform this passion into concrete policy to save our right whales.” 

Scientists estimate we can only lose less than one right whale per year to non-natural causes. But in the last four years, there have been 34 documented deaths. Fishing gear entanglements, alongside ship strikes, caused most of these deaths. Just yesterday, researchers found Cottontail — an 11-year-old male — washed ashore on a South Carolina beach. Cottontail was spotted entangled off New York in October 2020. 

In addition to yesterday’s submission to NOAA, Environment America has worked for the last year to build support for saving right whales. In early 2020, the organization hosted the Right Whale Road Show — a series of art shows, across New England, which showcased Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs’ artwork. The group also hosted two webinars on right whales, and, most recently, hosted and co-hosted seven virtual events that educated citizens about the draft rule and offered direction on how to submit individual comments to NOAA on the issue.