Suit Over Whale Deaths From Net Entanglement

     BOSTON (CN) – Fishing gear is endangering three whale species in the Northeast, environmentalists say in Federal Court. The Defenders of Wildlife claim that fishermen going after lobster and monkfish are entangling and killing humpbacks and North Atlantic right whales.

     Only about 345 of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale remain, and the loss of even a single individual could doom the species, the Defenders of Wildlife and Humane Society say in their complaint. They claim the species has suffered about one death per year from fishing gear entanglement since 2002.
     This year alone, three humpback whales have been killed or injured by entanglement, the groups say. The Gulf of Maine humpback population has been reduced to 847 whales, according to the complaint.
     A plan developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1997 to reduce harm to Northeast whales proved to be inadequate and was amended in 2007. But the whale entanglements continue, the plaintiffs say.
     This violates the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act by continuing to jeopardize endangered species, by not completing consultation with other agencies and by killing the species without permits.
     Both trap-pot and gillnet gear harm whales by impeding their feeding, reproduction and movement, and can cause life-threatening infection or drowning when whales can no longer surface for air.
     All three species of whales are federally endangered. The humpback is the largest animal on earth, as big as a Boeing jet. Its heart is the size of a small car. The humpback is also the loudest animal on the planet – at 190 decibels, its calls are louder than a jet engine.
     The groups want the NMFS to stop allowing “incidental take” of whales, and to follow the laws. They are represented by Kimberly Ockene of the Humane Society in Auburndale, Mass.

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