By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
It’s been two years since the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed rules to force ships to slow down near endangered North Atlantic right whales in order not to hit them.
Ten whales have died in that time – some from ship strikes – and the rules are still not written. Now, environmental groups have had enough.
Last week, the Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States and the Ocean Conservancy filed a federal lawsuit hoping to force the federal agency to finish the rules.
A right whale's tail
“Our litigation is necessary because this Administration is more willing to listen to the shipping industry than it is to listen to its own scientists.”
The right whale saga is heartbreaking.
The leviathans were hunted to near extinction for its oil and despite a hunting ban since the early 1900s, the species has never recovered and today populations hover around 350. Many appear off New England every spring and summer.
Ship strikes are one of the top killers of right whales. The animals tend to feed near the surface in busy shipping lanes. Canada and New England moved shipping lanes in recent years to protect the whales, but many of the animals are still in the direct path of vessels during certain parts of the year.
The lawsuit seeks to have the federal fisheries service complete the rulemaking process it began in 2006 or implement interim speed restrictions until the process is complete. The federal agency indicated during initial rulemaking that it would side with its own scientists who said ships should not go more than 10 miles per hour within right whale habitat, the lawsuit says.
“The protections that were promised are overdue,” said Vicki Cornish, vice president of marine wildlife conservation at Ocean Conservancy. “…waiting is no longer an option.”
For more information go to: http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2008/04/07/whale_watch/
About the green blog
Helping Boston live a greener, more environmentally friendly life.
Christopher Reidy covers business for the Globe.
Doug Struck covers environmental issues from Boston.
Glenn Yoder produces Boston.com's Lifestyle pages.
Eric Bauer is site architect of Boston.com.
Bennie DiNardo is the Boston Globe's deputy managing editor/multimedia.
Dara Olmsted is a local sustainability professional focusing on green living.