What Defenders is Doing to Help
Defenders of Wildlife has long led the conservation community’s efforts to protect right whales from ship strikes. In 2008, we succeeded in prompting the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to publish the first-ever speed limits for large ships to protect right whales. We are now working to ensure that those speed limits continue to protect right whales, including in renewable energy development and other significant developments along the East Coast.
Defenders is also working to reduce the number of Atlantic large whales entangled in fishing gear. As a member of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, we work with fishermen, scientists, government officials and conservationists to find solutions to the problem of marine mammal entanglement. We have also taken NMFS to court for continuing to allow federal fisheries to injure and kill critically endangered right whales while new protections are still being developed, and for not fully considering the impacts to right whales when opening additional fishing grounds. We are asking that the agency take immediate action to ensure that the fisheries can operate in a way that’s safe for whales.
In 2010, Defenders filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Navy challenging their decision to build an Undersea Warfare Training Range (USWTR) in the only known calving grounds for right whales. The Range, off the coast of Georgia and Florida, would require ships to travel through right whale critical habitat and would use sonar, torpedoes, parachutes and sonobouys that can all have grievous impacts on whales and other marine species.
Finally, our work includes efforts to expand critical habitat protections for right whales all along the East Coast. In 2009, we filed a petition with NMFS asking the agency to expand habitat protections in the right whale’s nursery, breeding and feeding grounds, and for the first time designate as critical habitat the essential migratory route that connects these areas. As a result of our litigation, the agency agreed to issue a proposed rule designating critical habitat.