The National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed to formally review the impact of commercial fishing operations on endangered whales and to issue new rules to protect the species from entanglement in fishing gear, as a result of a settlement in litigation filed by The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Each year, critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and endangered humpback whales, fin whales and sei whales suffer death or serious injury from entanglement in fishing gear. The agency’s promised review, referred to as a “Biological Opinion” under the Endangered Species Act, will evaluate the impacts of the American lobster fishery on the survival and recovery of the species and determine whether additional risk-reduction measures will be required.
Sharon Young, marine issues field director for The HSUS said: “Death and serious injuries from entanglement in fishing gear is considered one of the greatest threats to the recovery of endangered Atlantic whales. This agreement is an important step forward in the ongoing battle to save these species that are teetering at the very brink of extinction.”
The groups filed a complaint earlier this year in the federal District Court of Massachusetts, alleging that the agency’s management of the American lobster fishery violated the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act by allowing unlawful entanglements of endangered whales, and because the agency had failed to properly consider the threats the fishery poses to the species.
Jane Davenport, senior staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife said: “There are less than 450 North Atlantic right whales left in the wild, and each year more whales die from entanglement. Once these threats are properly evaluated, steps can be taken to resolve them so that the North Atlantic right whale has a chance to recover.” More....