A federal district court judge ruled last week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect right whales adequately from the risks posed by lobster fishing.
It is too early to know exactly how the ruling in a lawsuit brought by a group of environmental organizations will affect the lobster industry. U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg asked those groups and NOAA to file briefs suggesting an appropriate “injunctive remedy” against further violations of the Endangered Species Act.
Good. It’s long past time for the interests of other species to be valued and considered outside a human commercial frame, and the Endangered Species Act is a powerful legal imperative to do just that. The lobstering industry is already challenged by change (and now COVID-19). Now it will also have to figure out a way to stop putting down gear that entangles and kills right whales. All this probably means a smaller industry and fewer lobstermen, which will be a rough transition. But if state and federal aid can help ease that transition, the world will become a better place for right whales (and lobster).
Their argument, according to this report (and, yes, I am paraphrasing): SRKW are not that genetically distinct from other killer whales and there are lots of killer whales around the world, so who cares if they disappear from Puget Sound.
SEATTLE — The federal government is reviewing whether Puget Sound orcas should keep their endangered status.
NOAA Fisheries said Monday the review was prompted by a petition from the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation(PLF) seeking to delist the killer whales from the Endangered Species Act. The petition asserts that orcas aren’t in danger of becoming extinct because they’re part of a larger population of thriving whales.
NOAA listed southern resident killer whales as endangered in 2005. The orcas frequent Washington’s Puget Sound. They also spend time in the open ocean. There are currently 86 of these whales.
The agency has a year to decide whether it should delist the orcas. It says accepting the petition does not suggest a proposal to delist will follow.
The petition was filed in August on behalf of the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy, and Reliability, as well as two California Central Valley farmers.
PLF says that the farmers’ water supply is threatened by the orca’s ESA listing.
I’m tempted to point out that the existence of killer whales in Puget Sound is an enormous benefit to coastal communities. So PLF is proposing to enrich one industry at the cost of another. But I don’t want to put this thing on pure economic terms. Instead I want to simply ask: is making money more important than preserving this?