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Cheney's office has been delaying attempts to issue speed limits near the habitat of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale for FOUR YEARS. There are only about 300 right whales alive today, and ship collisions are their leading cause of death. As Henry Waxman wrote in his letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "the death of even a single whale, particularly a breeding female, may contribute to the extinction of the species."
Despite clear evidence linking higher boat speeds with increased whale mortality, Cheney's office has gone so far as to conduct their own analyses of data (using untested methods, NOAA scientists noted) to delay a ruling on the speed limits. The office contended that NOAA had "no evidence (i.e. hard data) that lowering the speeds of 'large ships' will actually make a difference." NOAA has quickly rebutted these objections, noting that they've conducted statistical analysis of ship strike records and have published peer-reviewed literature on the subject. They also conduct calf counts.
Why Cheney's office is going to such extremes to delay this ruling is up for debate. On one hand, there are shipping companies that want to make a few extra bucks speeding through a critical habitat.
What is the problem?
• Fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales remain and the population is declining.
• Right Whale coastal habitat along the eastern U.S. and Canada is heavily industrialized and under increasing negative pressures from human activities.
• Mortality from ship-strikes and fishing-gear entanglements is driving the species toward extinction.
• On average only 11 calves are born per year, this is only 1/3 of the expected birth rate and less than the present annual death rate.
What actions must be taken to effect the solutions?
1. Eliminate human-caused mortality to right whales in critical habitats and migration corridors
Reduce and eliminate mortality and injury from ship-strikes via:
• Ship rerouting around critical areas
• Ship speed reduction to “whale safe” speeds
• Advanced technology to help ships avoid right whales