The safe habitat for the North Atlantic right whales will be expanded by the federal government. The safe area will be increased with thousands of square miles and will include off grounds in New England and the Southeast coast. The area is now six times bigger than it was first designated two decades ago and is approximately 30,000 square nautical miles long.
The new decision came after the North Atlantic right whale population almost reached its extinction. In the 1800s this whale species was hunted for its oils but in the recent years the whale population has started to recover. In 1994 there were only 300 whales and now there are approximately 500.
According to David Gouveia from the Greater Atlantic Region of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a lot of progress was done towards protecting this rare whale species, but more work needs to be done in the future. Among the protections ensured by the environment conservationists there were the speed limit of the boats in the area and the prohibiting of fishing in order to ensure that the whales do not get entangled in the fishing gear. From now on, projects that require federal permission like wind farms and dredging will now get permits only if they do not affect the whale population. The oil platforms will also be permitted only in the areas that won’t be able to affect the whales.
These new protections came after two decades of research. Ship and aircraft surveys were done in order to check on the whales and their natural habitat. Apparently, these whales only give birth in the areas where there is the perfect combination between right sea temperature, water depth and calmness of the ocean surface.
In the New England area, 18,000 nautical square miles have been added, including the Cape Cod and the Gulf of Maine. In the area the researchers discovered that the population of the small crustaceans called copepods is very large. The copepods float in water columns and they are eaten by the right whales.
After the news that the safe habitat for the North Atlantic right whales will be expanded, appraisals came from environmental organizations for the decision, including from the Center for Biological Diversity headquartered in Arizona. Even though they praised the increase of critical habitat, they said that more actions should be taken in order for the North Atlantic right whales to be protected.
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