Ocean Conservancy asks how many more whales need to be killed or hurt before the Administration finally acts
Washington, DC – Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Bush Administration’s stall on putting protections in place for endangered whales from death and injury caused by ship strikes. The protections include slowing down large ships in important right whale habitat. One year ago today, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a draft final rule to slow ships down. Orders signed by the President require OMB to complete their review within 90 days so that the rule can be published. This delay by OMB represents a blatant violation of their legal responsibilities to complete their review within the required timeframe.
About four North Atlantic right whales more than 1% of the endangered population are estimated to be killed or seriously injured due to ship strikes along the East Coast of the U.S. every year. Two right whales have been reported as struck while OMB has stalled releasing the protections for whales. Many ship strikes go unreported. The species is also threatened by entanglement in fishing gear. The North Atlantic right whale is protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Only about 350 North Atlantic right whales are left, and the loss of even one whale is detrimental to the species. Though ship strikes are the number one cause of right whale injuries and mortalities, the government still has not issued rules to protect whales from ship strikes as required by law.
“This is one anniversary we will not be celebrating. Today is a troubling day for one of the world’s most endangered animals. Though the scientific and environmental communities are in agreement that slower speeds are needed to save right whales from ship strikes, the administration is not taking the necessary and legally required steps to protect this critically endangered species from further harm,” Vicki Cornish, Vice President of Marine Wildlife Conservation at Ocean Conservancy. “Rather than asking shipping companies many of which are not even U.S. companies to be responsible in their business practices, the government’s approach is to put the interests of a few influential shipping companies ahead of endangered whales.”
In 2004, NMFS declared that ship strikes are a serious threat to endangered right whales and the agency announced that a rule to address this threat would be proposed. It took two years until June 2006 for the proposed ship strike rule to be released for public comments. Now, a year after completion of the draft final rule, the administration continues to delay even though rigorous, independent scientific research indicates that slower speeds are necessary to save this endangered species.
Source: Ocean Connservancy