This year already has been exceptionally deadly for endangered whales. At least five North Atlantic right whales have died – four by ship strikes (including one calf whose mother was killed by a ship and who is too young to survive on its own, thus indirectly killed by ship strike). These are just the deaths we know about. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that only about one-third of right whale deaths are discovered, meaning many more have likely died.

In addition, a sei whale was struck so forcefully by a cruise ship that the giant whale was wrapped around the bow of the ship when it arrived in New York Harbor. And just recently, a humpback was found dead (cause of death pending).

Two of the biggest causes of whale deaths are ship strikes and entanglement. Congress has postponed until 2028 any efforts by NOAA to address entanglement by transitioning lobster and crab fisheries to ropeless technology.

However, we can, right now, significantly reduce whale deaths from ship strikes. NOAA has a final rule to save right whales by implementing mandatory ship speed limits in a narrow band of East Coast waters. Unfortunately, that rule has been stuck at the Office of Management and Budget for months awaiting approval. Canada has already implemented and is enforcing ship speed limits in its waters.

The administration needs to approve this rule now. It could literally be the difference between survival and extinction.

Sandy Scholar

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: