Save Endangered Whales from Deadly Fishing Gear

  • by: The Ocean Conservancy
  • recipient: Mary Colligan, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered large whales in the world, with only about 300 individuals left of the species. We cannot afford to lose a single whale because of human causes. During 2004, 17 whales, including six North Atlantic right whales, were entangled when they encountered fishing gear in their ocean habitat along the U.S. East Coast.

Solutions exist to protect these whales from being entangled, injured or killed, in fishing gear, but they need to be more aggressively utilized.

In an effort to eliminate potentially deadly entanglements, the National Marine Fisheries Service (the agency responsible for protecting whales) is taking public comments on proposed alternatives to improve the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan-a strategy required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

With three of the species of whale affected by fishing gear listed as endangered, especially the extremely endangered North Atlantic right whale, we cannot afford anything less than a 100 percent effective plan to protect these magnificent animals from fishing gear encountered in their habitat.

Act Now! Ask NMFS to strengthen the protection of whales by requiring modifications to fishing gear proven to prevent whales from becoming entangled

Dear Mary Colligan,

I am deeply concerned about the health of all ocean life, especially that of the large whales along our Atlantic Coast. For this reason, I am most troubled to learn that these creatures are becoming entangled, injured and sometimes killed in fishing gear placed in their habitat. It is especially troubling that this danger poses a threat the extremely endangered North Atlantic right whale when solutions exist that have yet to be fully implemented.


Therefore I urge you to strengthen the proposals contained in the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to maximize protection for these whales. The preferred alternative in the DEIS must be strengthened in the following ways:


  • Require year-round fishing gear modifications, including weak links in gill and drift nets effective enough to allow whales to escape entanglement;

  • Maximize the use of sinking line in lobster trap fisheries including on vertical lines;

  • Minimize the use of vertical lines in trap fisheries, such as requiring the use of a single vertical line at one end of a line of traps as opposed to one at each end;

  • Be very cautious in maintaining areas of habitat closed to fishing gear along the East Coast on a seasonal basis, or when whales are known to be present until the necessary and proven gear modifications are in place.


With three of the species of whale affected by fishing gear listed as endangered, especially the extremely endangered North Atlantic right whale, we cannot afford anything less than a 100 percent effective plan to protect these magnificent animals from fishing gear encountered in their habitat.



Thank you for considering my views.
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