NOAA grants additional funding to protect North Atlantic right whales

Published on
December 23, 2019

NOAA Fisheries has announced it is adding USD 1.6 million (EUR 1.4 million) in additional funding to recovery actions for the North Atlantic right whale.

The funding, according to a release from NOAA, will go toward reducing the risk of entanglement of right whales in fishing gear, and will also assist the lobster fishing industry with the impacts caused by adapting to new management measures intended to mitigate entanglements. The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered species in the world, with current estimates putting the global population at around 400 individuals.

Entanglement with fishing gear has continued to be a cause of death for the whales, which has put pressure on NOAA to take measures to slow the losses. In the past two years, 29 whales have been found dead, many of which have been attributed to entanglement.   

“The North Atlantic right whale is critically endangered and fisheries gear entanglements and vessel strikes are among the leading causes of mortalities in both the U.S. and Canada,” the NOAA release states. “NOAA Fisheries and our partners are dedicated to conserving and rebuilding the North Atlantic right whale population.”

NOAA added that it plans to work with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to expend the funds. The exact details of how the funds will be expended are still being “worked out” with the commission, according to NOAA.

The U.S. state of Maine, however, has been pushing back against greater regulations against its lobster fishery, which is the most lucrative fishery in the state. In 2018, the fishery generated USD 484 million (EUR 436 million) in revenue for the state.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association recently voted not to support a Maine Department of Marine Resources plan to protect the whales, and the state’s governor, Janet Mills, has called NOAA’s proposal to reduce vertical lines by 50 percent “foolish.”

Despite the opposition in Maine, the Massachusetts lobster industry has complied with NOAA’s new proposals, with the state’s attorney general pushing for greater regulation.  

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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