While we’re glad the government is paying attention and devoting additional resources to this crisis, we believe there is still room for more permanent protections to address the reality in the water. At this juncture, only bold, bilateral action by the U.S. and Canadian governments will save the North American right whale from extinction.
In the week following the documentation of three separate entangled North Atlantic right whales in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced several new measures to try to prevent additional deaths of this endangered species. The announcement comes after a particularly tragic month for the species, with six right whales—more than 1% of the population—killed in June. Several of these whales were killed by ship strikes, authorities confirmed. The three entangled whales will likely add to the death toll after rescue workers expressed doubt that they could free the animals.
Jane Davenport, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“While we’re glad the government is paying attention and devoting additional resources to this crisis, we believe there is still room for more permanent protections to address the reality in the water. At this juncture, only bold, bilateral action by the U.S. and Canadian governments will save the North American right whale from extinction.”
The Canadian government announced several new actions last night, including expanding reduced speed zones and increased aerial surveillance, though the fly-overs will only last until July 15. While the government also heralded its previously-announced funding for marine mammal protection, no funds are earmarked for the right whale specifically.
With fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the wild, the fight to save the right whale has been a top priority for Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups. Last week, Defenders and several other groups sent a letter to the Canadian government including a list of recommendations to prevent future deaths, many of which were echoed by Canadian scientists in a recent government report.
Defenders filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fishery Service last year for violating its legal obligation to protect the right whale.
Defenders is also supportive of H.R. 1568, the SAVE Right Whales Act, which would provide support for right whale conservation programs and projects.