A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Thursday that the federal government has failed to protect the North Atlantic right whale in accordance with the Endangered Species Act.
The North Atlantic right whale was one of the first animals to be protected under the act, and the current population is around 400, fewer than 100 of which are breeding females. The Center for Biological Diversity filed the suit against National Marine Fisheries Service for policies that allowed the lucrative lobster fishing industry to carry on in a way that threatens the North Atlantic right whale, as the largest modern threats to the species are ship strikes and fishing-gear entanglement.
According to the ruling, “In 2014, National Marine Fisheries Service produced a Biological Opinion finding that, despite its potential to harm the species in unsustainable numbers, the American lobster fishery would not jeopardize the continued existence of the North Atlantic right whale.”
The court found that the Service failed to adhere to the requirements set forth by the Endangered Species Act, and so declared the Biological Opinion to be illegal. The court ordered a briefing as to further remedies.
This is not the first suit the Center for Biological Diversity has filed against National Marine Fisheries Service to protect an endangered whale species.