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Massachusetts to Celebrate Right Whale Day

Currently the right whale birth rate is lower than the mortality rate. (Lauren Packard/NOAA)
Currently the right whale birth rate is lower than the mortality rate. (Lauren Packard/NOAA)
July 29, 2019

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State House is hosting Save the Right Whale Day this afternoon. The event celebrates a state resolution around the efforts to save the North Atlantic right whale.

The resolution supports the federal bipartisan SAVE Right Whales Act, and goes even further to protect the whale, which experts say is at high-risk for extinction within the next few decades.

Charles "Stormy" Mayo directs the Right Whale Ecology Program at the Center for Coastal Studies. He said two of the biggest risks to the endangered population are getting caught in lobster and crab trap lines and being struck by a ship.

"Massachusetts has been working very hard for about 20-25 years to develop strict regulations – particularly lobster activities by fishermen – and has been tightening regulations regarding ship speed and ship passage within the bay,” Mayo said.

At the event, speakers from the New England Aquarium and the International Fund for Animal Welfare will talk about how their organizations and others are working to protect the right whale from extinction.

Mayo said many researchers believe that functional extinction, meaning there are not enough individual animals to renew the population, is imminent if immediate action isn't taken. Although, he said he believes there still is time to turn things around.

The SAVE Right Whales Act supports and provides financial resources for North Atlantic right whale conservation programs. It passed in the House with bipartisan support and now goes to the Senate.

Katharine Deuel is an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts, which supports the legislation. She said with only 400 right whales left on the planet, help can't come quickly enough.

"It would fund research, it would fund improved monitoring and surveillance to know where and when the right whales are,” Deuel said. “And it would be an opportunity for industries that are impacted by potentially upcoming regulations to have funds available to support gear research and gear innovation."

Many New England fishermen are concerned that new federal regulations to protect the right whale could hurt their industry. Supporters of the SAVE Right Whales Act hope new innovations can lead to a more eco-friendly lobstering industry.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Disclosure: The Pew Charitable Trusts - Environmental Group contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Climate Change/Air Quality, Consumer Issues, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Health Issues, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Jenn Stanley, Public News Service - MA