Feds Propose Massive Expansion of Critical Habitat to Protect Endangered Whale

Feb 13, 2015

Four North Atlantic right whales.
Credit Peter Duley / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

WASHINGTON - Federal officials are proposing a significant expansion in the critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.

NOAA Fisheries want to increase the designated area - which stretches from the Gulf of Maine-George's Bank region, down to northern Florida - to almost 30,000 square nautical miles. That's an expansion of more than 600 percent.

NOAA spokesperson Jennifer Geobel says that would affect nearly all the Gulf of Maine. The proposed rule would not mean any new restrictions for the commercial fishing industry, she says, but it would mean any federal agency planning activities in the area would have to consult with NOAA Fisheries first.

"So if there's something that we haven't foreseen or something that's not going on right now that could adversely impact right whale habitat, then we would have the power now to make suggestions for alternative action," Goebel says.

The proposed regulation is due to be filed on Tuesday. A 60-day public comment begins after that.