NOAA Fisheries denies petition for endangered whale protection near ports, sparking concern

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Rice's whale Or Gulf Of Mexico Whale (NOAA)
Rice's whale Or Gulf Of Mexico Whale. By NOAA.

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A petition seeking to protect of one the most endangered whales in the world by creating restrictions near Florida’s west-coast ports was denied by federal officials on Friday.

The petition would have restricted speeds for vessels and banned transit at night along waters from Pensacola to just south of Tampa.  It was submitted by various environmental groups to NOAA Fisheries.

But in a bulletin posted on their website, NOAA Fisheries said that fundamental conservation tasks are needed before they consider vessel regulations.

Michael Jasny is the Director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He spoke out after the proposal was denied.

“Last year, a group of about 100 marine scientists said that unless meaningful conservation measures are taken, the United States are going to cause the first-ever extinction of a great whale species. And that is exactly what we’re looking at,”

Jasny stressed the importance of vessel regulations to protect the whale.

“We know that vessel strikes pose a very serious risk for the survival of the species, we know how to reduce vessel strikes in a way that’s practicable, yet we find that the federal government hasn’t acted.”

But Michael Rubin, CEO of the Florida Ports Council, considers this a win.

“We always thought the petition was fundamentally flawed, really was a request with some regulations that really didn’t make any sense for logistics and supply chain industry in Florida”

Rubin says it would have been a setback for Florida ports.

“We know what the trade route lanes are, so can we do stuff with sonar and everything else to help out on it? And that, to us, is a better discussion rather than coming out with a bright-line regulation that shuts down commerce,”

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott also called on NOAA to reject the proposed rule.

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