Safeguarding the Endangered Gulf of Mexico Whale


NOAA | Public Domain
The Rice's Whale, also known as the Gulf of Mexico Whale

The Rice’s whale, also known as the Gulf of Mexico whale, is a remarkable marine mammal that calls the waters of the United States its year-round home. With a size comparable to a railroad boxcar and weighing as much as a typical fire truck, these majestic creatures are a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the Rice’s whale is teetering on the edge of extinction due to human activities, particularly those associated with fossil fuel exploration and development. With fewer than 100 individuals remaining, urgent action is required to ensure the survival and recovery of this endangered species.

The Threats

Continued oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico poses an existential threat to the survival of the Rice’s whale. The day-to-day operations associated with these industries, including the constant presence of drilling supply and support vessels, harm the whale’s habitat. Collisions with vessels and noise pollution are two significant challenges these creatures face.

Collisions with vessels are a significant concern, as the Gulf of Mexico whales are frequently found within 50 feet of the water’s surface. Their preferred habitat spans a large area from Florida across the northern Gulf to Texas, making them highly vulnerable to ship strikes. Even the death of a single reproductive-age female would have dire consequences for the species’ existence.

The Solution: Slowing Down and More

To mitigate the risks faced by the Gulf of Mexico whales, it is crucial to implement protective measures, including imposing speed limits in critical regions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently accepting public comments on the proposal to lower ship speed limits.

However, slowing down ships is just one part of the solution. Comprehensive protection measures must be implemented to ensure the Rice whale’s long-term survival and recovery. Preserving their habitat, reducing noise pollution, and addressing other human activities that disrupt their natural behavior is vital to safeguarding their future.

The Call to Action

Now more than ever, the Gulf of Mexico whales need our collective action to prevent their extinction. The Biden administration and concerned citizens must take significant conservation measures to protect these magnificent creatures. The U.S. must avoid being responsible for the first great whale species extinction caused by human activity.

To make a difference, it is crucial to express support for the proposed ship speed limits and advocate for more comprehensive protections for the Gulf of Mexico whales. Submitting public comments to NOAA and voicing our concerns can help ensure that the protection measures are implemented. Together, we can pave the way for the recovery and revival of this endangered species.


The plight of the Rice’s Gulf of Mexico whale should serve as a wake-up call for us all. The fragile existence of these magnificent creatures is hanging by a thread due to the impact of human activities, particularly those related to oil and gas development. By taking action now and implementing robust conservation measures, we can reverse their decline and secure a future where these whales thrive again. Let us stand united in protecting the Gulf of Mexico whales and prevent the tragic loss of another great whale species.


Darius Hajibashi


Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas

As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.

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