Fighting for Survival in the Urban Seas of the United States
The world’s rarest large whale lives only in Atlantic coastal waters of the United States and southern Canada. Like birds need trees, Right Whales need to breed and birth in bays and inlets of the U.S. coastline. They can give birth no where else.
The Right Whale is forty feet long and with a stocky build – weighing almost as much as a Blue Whale. Within a few miles of the coastline, the whale feeds on microscopic zooplankton by cruising along with its large mouth open, grazing through dense patches of its prey living in United States coastal waters.
The Right Whales are about to go extinct since there very few Right Whales left. Right Whales are mercilessly killed by the US and Canadian commercial fishing industries. They get entangled in vertical buoy ropes (VBR) used in lobsterpot and gillnet fisheries. The VBR wraps itself around the whale and literally strangles it. Baby whales drown since the entanglement holds them below the surface so they get no air. Females flesh is eviscerated by the rough ropes sawing through their skin. It is common for entangled whales to have their tails cut off by a VBR entanglement or lose a flipper. Infections from the gaping wounds caused by the entangling ropes are chronic and severely weaken the whales. They cannot feed, they lose weight and actually shrink in size. Females stop having babies because they no longer have sufficient body fat to remain fertile or the milk required to feed their newborn calves. New born whales literally starve to death because their mothers entanglement injuries stop them from producing sufficient milk to keep the baby whales alive.
There are only about 400 Right Whales left in the world. Their population is crashing. The decline in their numbers is just from getting killed by fishing gear and an occasional getting run over by a ship. Off the New England coast commercial fishermen deploy annually over a million sets of vertical buoy ropes. Thousands of VBR suspended in the height of the water column along the United States coastline presents physical barriers to migrating whales. When a Right Whale’s flipper hits one of these VBR’s suspended ropes or runs into one with its mouth open, the VBR quickly wraps itself around the whale’s body in an entanglement that every time either severely injures or kills a Right Whale.
The big problem is that it is the federal and state governments are requiring the use of the VBR despite knowing that they are killing Right Whales and driving their remaining whale population into extinction. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and state fishing agencies of Maine and Massachusetts do not care if the Right Whale goes extinct. In fact they want it to go extinct sooner or later. Because Right Whale’s are ESA protected endangered whales, they are a legal threat to the fishing industry. But if the industry could kill them off sooner than later the industry can get rid of its legal problems with its killing Right Whales. NOAA and the state fishing agencies of Maine and Massachusetts support only the commercial fishing industry and do nothing to impede their industrial fishing and it quickly killing off the Right Whales. These government agencies refuse to enforce state and federal wildlife laws that make killing or entangling whales a crime. No state or federal government has ever punished or even fined anyone whose fishing gear caught and killed a Right Whale.
If entanglement is not a big enough factor in wiping out the last of the Right Whales, ongoing coastal development is driving the nails into the Right Whale coffin. The Urban Sea constitutes the marine environment within 100 miles of the United States coastline. The Urban Sea has come to exist as a result of the exponentially increasing commercial development of the coastline. Over half of the population of the United States lives within 100 miles of the coastlines. For a whale or sea turtle trying now to live in the Urban Sea is like a moose or wolf trying to live in a suburb of New York or Boston. The Urban Sea is a suburb of large coastal cities. The city does not end at its docks it continues out into the Ocean. Oil drilling, ship traffic, noise & chemical pollution, marine microbes spreading disease have converted the whale’s required marine wilderness into the Urban Sea that is hostile to any marine wildlife’s survival. If entanglement is directly killing off the Right Whale, the Urban Sea is the salt in the wound that is kicking the whale on its tail as it is going out the door.
If the Right Whales are to have any significant chance at survival VBR must be abolished right now. It should have been abolished twenty years ago. Its killing of Right Whales even back then was a well-known fact. But the whale interested NGOs or WINGOS (whale-interested NGOs) like aquariums and the Sierra Club either opposed the Right Whale’s protection outright or only supported protecting the whale if it would not impair the commercial fishing industry. Nothing was done for decades by NOAA, state wildlife agencies or any WINGO to stop the ongoing and never ending killing of Right Whales while their species just perished.
In 2020, if Whale Safe USA (WSUSA) just wins it lawsuits against NOAA, Maine and Massachusetts we will at least be able to shut down the ability of the fishing industry to entangle another Right Whale, any other endangered whale or an endangered sea turtle either for that matter.
Right Whale Survival Depends on You and Me
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