Coast Guard Agrees to be Crossing Guard for Endangered Whale Schools

Environment groups settled a lawsuit in federal court today with the US Coast Guard, which agreed to abide by the Endangered Species Act which requires that shipping lanes do not put critically endangered Northern Atlantic right whales in harm’s way.

Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, Ocean Conservancy and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society filed the lawsuit jointly in 2006.[social_buttons]

“The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals made clear in its ruling this summer that the Coast Guard must comply with the ESA in its designation of shipping lanes,” said Sierra Weaver of Defenders of Wildlife. “We’re pleased to have come to an agreement about how the Coast Guard will fulfill their duty to protect right whales.”

Collisions with vessels are the top cause of death for the endangered North Atlantic right whale population. The United States government believes at least four right whales die in shipping accidents every year; considering the overall population is estimated to be around 350 whales, these accidents can have a drastic impact.

The Coast Guard will now monitor the impact of three major shipping lanes in Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay and Cape Fear, in addition to any future additional lanes. The same groups also recently settled a suit with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which agreed to lower the speed of shipping vessels to a mere 10 knots in the areas.

Photo Credit: Cornstaruk on Flickr under Creative Commons license

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