Lawsuit seeks more protection for endangered right whales

Lawsuit seeks more protection for endangered right whales

Conservation
groups
are
suing
the
federal
government,
saying
it
has
taken
too
long
act
on
proposals
to
expand
protections
for
critically
endangered
right
whales

SAVANNAH,
Ga.

Conservation
groups
filed
suit
Wednesday
against
the
federal
government,
saying
it
has
taken
too
long
to
act
on
proposals
to
expand
protections
for
critically
endangered
right
whales.

The
lawsuit
in
U.S.
District
Court
in
Washington
says
the
National
Marine
Fisheries
Service
for
more
than
eight
years
has
ignored
conservationists’
petitions
seeking
greater
speed
limit
restrictions
on
ships
along
the
U.S.
East
Coast,
where
the
rare
whales’
range
extends
from
Maine
to
Florida.

Scientists
say
collisions
with
ships
are
one
of
the
greatest
threats
to
a
species
considered
dangerously
close
to
extinction.
Last
year,
the
National
Oceanic
and
Atmospheric
Administration
estimated
the
population
of
North
Atlantic
right
whales
has
dropped
below
370.
The
previous
year’s
estimate
was
412.

Since
2008,
the
government
has
imposed
speed
limits
on
larger
vessels
in
Atlantic
waters
in
areas
and
periods
of
the
year
when
right
whales
are
frequently
seen.
The
largest
areas
are
off
the
coast
of
New
England,
where
right
whales
feed
and
mate
from
spring
into
fall,
and
off
the
Carolinas,
Georgia
and
northern
Florida,
where
pregnant
females
migrate
each
winter
to
give
birth.

The
conservationists’
lawsuit
says
the
existing
restrictions
aren’t
good
enough.
Scientists
have
documented
cases
of
12
right
whales
being
struck
by
vessels
since
2013.
Four
were
either
killed
or
seriously
injured

including
a
6-month-old
right
whale
calf
found
dead
last
year.

“The
clock
is
running
out
for
right
whales,
and
further
delay
is
unacceptable,”
Kristen
Monsell,
oceans
legal
director
at
the
Center
For
Biological
Diversity,
said
in
a
statement.

The
center
filed
the
lawsuit
along
with
the
groups
Whale
and
Dolphin
Conservation,
Defenders
of
Wildlife
and
Conservation
Law
Foundation.

The
conservationists
are
asking
a
federal
judge
to
force
the
National
Marine
Fisheries
Service
to
issue
a
decision
on
petitions
they
filed
seeking
expanded
protections
in
2012
and
again
last
August.

They
want
speed
limits
imposed
on
vessels
smaller
than
65
feet
(20
meters)
long,
which
are
currently
exempt.
They
are
also
seeking
expanded
speed-limit
zones
in
some
areas
and
for
reduced
speeds
to
become
mandatory
in
certain
cases
where
they
are
now
voluntary.

National
Marine
Fisheries
Service
spokeswoman
Allison
Garrett
said
the
agency
does
not
comment
on
pending
litigation.

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