Second Victory for Right Whales this Week

CLF lawsuit to protect critically endangered species moves forward

Photo: right whale in Cape Cod Bay.

A right whale in Cape Cod Bay. Photo: Brian Skerry

October 31, 2019 (BOSTON, MA) – In the second victory for right whales this week, a judge ruled this afternoon that Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) lawsuit against federal regulators can move forward.

“After a series of devastating deaths this summer, pushing paper will not protect right whales from extinction,” said Erica Fuller, CLF Senior Attorney. “We need to use the force of the law to put this species on the path to recovery. The judge absolutely made the correct call: right whales simply can’t wait any longer for the federal government to get around to doing their job.”

The ongoing suit aims to force regulators to comply with their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. CLF and the other plaintiffs in this case – the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Humane Society of the United States – have argued that the National Marine Fisheries Service is unlawfully authorizing the lobster fishery despite the fact that their vertical fishing lines threaten right whales.

There are barely 400 North Atlantic right whales remaining, and at least ten whales have already died this year. Entanglement in fishing gear has been responsible for the majority of right whale deaths over the last decade. Chronic entanglement, which is extremely painful, also interferes with whales’ ability to eat, swim, and reproduce.

Judge Boasberg also ruled on Monday in CLF’s favor, finding that the government’s 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 experts are available for further comment.