Government’s proposed new rules don’t go far enough
Re “New US plan to aid right whales faces wide-ranging wrath” by David Abel (Page A1, March 1): As a marine advocate, campaigner, and former stranding responder, I have been involved in all aspects of trying to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from a path toward extinction.
With the population having declined to only about 360 animals, it is time to call on our government to take bold action to reverse this decline.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) proposed new rules to reduce the risk of entanglement to right whales from vertical buoy rope in lobster and crab fisheries. Unfortunately, these rules are based on outdated population data and rely on too low of a risk-reduction threshold, aiming as they do for at least a 60 percent reduction in mortalities or serious injuries of right whales (which does not accomplish what NOAA is obligated by law to do).
Mitigation measures such as mandating weak rope for fishermen are interim solutions at best and do not eliminate the risk of entanglement, which is the biggest threat to right whales’ survival.
Right whales need immediate protections to eliminate vertical buoy rope from the water column and enact mandatory vessel slowdowns where whales are present.
NOAA Fisheries should embrace ropeless fishing gear, which would go further in reducing mortality. It also would have a positive impact on the health and reproductive success of live animals, which is ultimately how this species will recover.
International Fund for Animal Welfare
Biden administration, NOAA have chance to decide future of this species
The Globe’s coverage of endangered North Atlantic right whales has been consistent and complete over the past years, including the recent BostonGlobe.com story of the 11-year-old male, “Cottontail,” the victim of yet another death from entanglement in fishing gear.
With only around 360 of these whales left, this coverage is important to show the urgency of their situation and what can be done to protect them from their two primary threats: collisions with vessels and entanglements in fishing gear. The good news is that there are proven solutions available.
The government has an opportunity to make our waters safer for North Atlantic right whales and support their recovery. But with many voices downplaying the facts and the need for action, these opportunities could be passed by and we could lose this species forever.
The Biden administration and the dedicated professionals who have spent their careers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studying and conserving whales will decide the future of this species in the coming months.
Will the Globe’s future coverage have a tragic ending and be another cautionary tale of what we should have done? Or will it be a story of triumph, New England innovation, and a celebration of the recovery of this species that calls Massachusetts’ waters home?
The writer is a senior campaign manager with Washington, D.C.-based Oceana.