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Soundings Archive

Urgent Concern over Right Whales
Everyone agrees that the right whale is near extinction. It was among the first group of species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Right whale population numbers have never recovered from over fishing in the eighteenth century. Illegal fishing almost wiped out the species in the twentieth century. Ship strikes and commercial fishing net entanglement are still decimating right whale numbers. Only 350 right whales are known to exist.

An article to be published in Science magazine estimates that eight out of ten right whale deaths are never even reported. The article has eighteen co-authors. They all call for emergency action by the National Marine Fisheries Service to save the right whale. The authors claim that there isn't time to comply with the usual federal agency rule making process.

NMFS claims that the normal rule making process would require 18 to 24 months, but that emergency, temporary rules could be in place in 6 months.

In June, a federal court in San Francisco ordered NMFS to designate right whale critical habitat in the Pacific Ocean. The order was issued under the ESA, and NMFS has to make the required statutory habitat designation by October 28, 2005.
  • Click here for northern pacific right whale court order

  • Click here for NMFS's website on right whales (scroll down to Northern Right Whales subtitle and links)

  • Click here for Washington Post article on right whales
  • Click here for AP article on right whales
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