CLF Prevails in Right Whale Lawsuit Against Federal Government

Judge rules fishery management plan harms whales

North Atlantic right whale

A North Atlantic right whale. Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

October 28, 2019 (BOSTON, MA) – North Atlantic right whales will be protected from dangerous fishing gear in New England waters after Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Earthjustice won a lawsuit against the federal government today.

“Expanded fishing in a right whale hot spot flies in the face of the Endangered Species Act,” said Erica Fuller, CLF Senior Attorney. “This ruling rightfully reverses a dangerous course and will give right whales the protection they need from fishing gear. We cannot afford to lose even one more of these critically endangered creatures.”

In Judge Boasberg’s ruling, he affirmed that the plan to open waters south of Nantucket to gillnet fishing for the first time in decades, without the appropriate analysis required by the Endangered Species Act, is unlawful. CLF argued that the decision to reopen longstanding closures was based on an incorrect legal analysis and outdated data regarding the impact it would have on right whales.

CLF’s lawsuit also argued that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it authorized the Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2 last year, which opened up thousands of square miles of right whale habitat to commercial fishing using gear known to entangle right whales.

These areas will be closed to gillnet fishing until the required analysis is done.

Entanglement in fishing gear is the biggest threat to right whales, and the agency has stated that even a single death is a threat to the species’ survival. There are only around 400 North Atlantic right whales left on earth. CLF is also suing the federal government over its authorization of rules regarding the lobster fishery.

You can find Judge Boasberg’s opinion here, and the order here.

CLF experts are available for further comment.