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Saving the North Atlantic Right Whale

A North Atlantic right whale and calf.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf.

NOAA Photo

What’s at Stake

The critically endangered North Atlantic right whale could be facing extinction as early as 2040.

Overview

Distinct "v-shaped" spout patterns spray a dozen feet into the crisp ocean air—a sure sign that right whales have returned to calve off the coasts of Florida and Georgia. The few remaining whales come each spring, sometimes swimming close enough to spot from shore.

Although listed as endangered in 1973, the North Atlantic population of right whales has made slow progress towards recovery. Earthjustice and our clients and partners have been working for years to ensure the survival of the species, including protecting the whales' calving grounds near Jacksonville, Florida. With fewer than 460 total whales left, even one death is a catastrophe.

The right whales' very name suggests why they were hunted to the brink of extinction. Whalers in the 18th century thought of them as the "right" whales to hunt. They were easy to spot from shore, floated to the surface when killed and provided a bounty of oil and meat.

Today, although no longer hunted, right whales are still victims of human activity. Because their calving grounds and habitat stretch through some of the busiest shipping channels and fishing spots in the world, right whales are often struck by passing ships or become entangled in fishing gear.

Case ID

1973, 3610

Attorneys

Case Updates

February 8, 2018 | Legal Document

North Atlantic Right Whales: Complaint

In this action for declaratory and injunctive relief, Conservation Law Foundation (“CLF” or “Plaintiff”) challenges the Secretary of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (collectively, “NMFS” or “Defendants”) ongoing authorization and management of the American lobster fishery and their failure to prevent jeopardy and unlawful takes of endangered North Atlantic right whales (“right whales”) in violation of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”), and Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). See 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. §§ 1361-1389; 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706.

November 29, 2017 | Legal Document

North Atlantic Right Whales: Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit under the Endangered Species Act

The Conservation Law Foundation (“CLF”) and co-counsel Earthjustice hereby give notice pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g) of our intent to sue the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Secretary of Commerce, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (collectively “NOAA Fisheries” or the “Agency”) for violations of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq., specified below. The alleged violations concern the effects of the American lobster fishery on the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) (“right whale”). We intend to file suit in United States District Court seeking appropriate declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and other relief no earlier than sixty days from the postmark date of this notice letter.

February 8, 2013 | Blog Post

Sub Warfare Training Facility Threatens Whales, Sea Turtles

The Navy is pushing ahead with plans to build a massive submarine warfare training facility, consisting of 500 square miles of cables, nodes, buoys and other instruments, next to the only known nursery for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and on top of habitat for sea turtles and other endangered species.