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Success! Court stops US government attempt to block whale protection lawsuit

Only around 360 North Atlantic right whales remain © Sea to Shore Alliance, taken under NOAA research permit 20556

A federal court in the US has dismissed attempts by Joe Biden’s administration to halt a lawsuit against the government filed by WDC and other groups, which seeks to create stronger rules to protect rare North Atlantic right whales from collisions with ships.

Together with Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the US, Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation Law Foundation, we recently petitioned the US government to implement speed restrictions for vessels in North Atlantic right whale habitats.

The population of these endangered whales dropped to just 336 in 2020 as they continues to face daily threats from vessels, and entanglement in fishing gear.

WDC has been campaigning for many years to try to prevent these amazing but vulnerable whales from disappearing for good.  We want the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA – the US federal agency responsible for national marine resources) to expand speed limit areas and times to help protect the whales, and have taken legal action to try to get these measures in place, and make speed rules mandatory for small and large vessels.

However, the US government has been seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. Thankfully, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has denied the government’s request and ruled that it has an obligation to consider it.

‘The lawsuit is a chance to protect the declining whales and also make waters safer for shippers’, said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of WDC North America. ‘That’s especially important because right whales have been spotted outside their typical migratory patterns in recent years, and that can take boaters by surprise.’

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