Conservation Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Endangered Right Whales

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for failure to develop a recovery plan for the endangered North Pacific right whale.

The 60-day notice of intent to sue is required before such a lawsuit is filed under the Endangered Species Act. These whales have been listed as endangered since 1973.

The announcement on March 20 came from Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the national conservation group devoted to protecting endangered species and wild places. Noblin said that what with the increased shipping activity there is growing urgency to protect the northern right whales, who are very slow moving and for some reason don’t get out of the way of ships. Noblin said the best thing to prevent ship strikes of the whales would be to slow ships and have established shipping lanes.

The right whales got their name because they were considered “the right whale to hunt,” and back in the days before the advent of commercial whaling they numbered as many as 20,000 whales. Noblin said that the few remaining individual whales today are extremely vulnerable to ship strikes, oil development and oil spills, and entanglement in fishing gear. Even the loss of one whale could threaten the entire population, she said.

Noblin said there are an estimated 30 such whales in the North Pacific and stocks in Russia are estimated at about a few hundred.

Under the Endangered Species Act, NPFS is required to issue and implement a plan for conservation and recovery of these whales.