Target: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species Headquarters Chief of Division of Restoration and Recovery Jeff Newman
Goal: Require fishing gear to be made safe for whales to prevent 85 percent of endangered whale deaths.
Entanglement in fishing gear has become the leading cause of death for right whales, an endangered species, in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015, entanglement caused 85 percent of whale deaths. This is a whopping 50 percent increase from the previous 40 years.
Scientists say that whale populations suffer even when individual animals that have become tangled survive, because the long-term negative effects threaten the ability of the species to recover. When whales are forced to drag heavy equipment along with them wherever they go, they are unable to move as quickly or feed as effectively. It can also prevent them from reproducing because they cannot put on enough fat to have a baby. This is incredibly dangerous for an endangered population.
Right whales live in the North Atlantic. They got their name during the whaling era when their relatively slow speed and the fact that their dead bodies float made them the “right” whale to hunt and kill. We hunted them to near extinction, but the population of North Atlantic right whales was slowly increasing until 2010. Since then, however, the number of right whales born every year has dropped by 40 percent, illustrating a clear threat to conservation efforts.
According to scientists, a lot of effort is being put into developing different kinds of gear and methods for fishing that would reduce entanglement. This movement toward a safer environment for the whales could be key to their survival. Demand that the old methods be abandoned to protect endangered whales and allow them to recover.
Dear Mr. Newman,
The recovery of the North Atlantic right whale has been greatly threatened by entanglement in fishing gear. This endangered species had been slowly increasing its numbers, but in the last five years the amount of right whale births has dropped by 40 percent.
In that same time, the amount of whale deaths caused by entanglement increased from 35 percent between 1970 and 2009 to 85 percent from 2010 to 2015. This is an unacceptable way for us to treat these animals, especially considering that we have already endangered them by hunting them so relentlessly during the whaling era.
According to scientists, even when individual whales survive getting tangled in the gear, the lasting negative effects are severely damaging. The extra weight these whales must carry slows them down, prevents them from getting sufficient food, and substantially decreases birth rates because they are unable to gain enough fat to have a baby.
The initiative being taken to develop alternate fishing methods and gear that would be safer for the whales could be the key to protecting them. Please do not allow this threat to an endangered species to continue. I urge you to support the drive toward safer gear and require that the old methods be abandoned to protect these whales from death and even extinction.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Michael Catanzariti