Several conservation groups have joined together to file a lawsuit that claims the Trump Administration has failed to protect humpback whales from fishing gear, ship strikes and oil spills.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Wishtoyo Foundation announced Thursday they have sued the Trump Administration for “failing to protect humpback whale habitat in the Pacific Ocean.” The lawsuit was filed in the federal district court in San Francisco.
The nonprofit groups hope the lawsuit will force the National Marine Fisheries Service to follow the Endangered Species Act’s requirement to designate critical habitat within one year of listing a species as threatened or endangered, and not authorize actions that would damage that habitat, according to a release.
Two Pacific Ocean humpback populations were listed as endangered and a third as threatened in September 2016.
“The federal government needs to protect critical humpback habitat that’s prone to oil spills and dangerously dense with fishing gear and ship traffic,” Catherine Kilduff, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These whales need urgent action, not more delays.”
In 2016, 71 whales were caught up after being tangled in lines used by people trapping lobster and crab, and other fishing lines, according to a report last year by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
Most of those – 54 cases – were humpback whales, according to the report.
While entanglements can greatly deteriorate a whale’s heath, the animals sometimes can remain entangled in gear for long periods of time and still be capable of traveling great distances.
Many of the entanglements in 2016, 22 reports, were caused by Dungeness crab commercial trap fisheries when compared to 2015, which had 11 of these type of entanglements.
According to the news release sent out Thursday, there are an estimated 400 humpback whales that feed off of California’s coast.
Ship strikes and oil spills are the other major threats to West Coast humpback whales, the release reads, citing a study that showed 22 humpback whales off California, Oregon and Washington die each year after being hit by ships.
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