The US National Marine Fisheries Service announced this week that it intends to expand critical habitat protections in Alaska for the North Pacific right whale.
In July 2022, NMFS announced a review of the North Pacific Right Whale’s critical habitat in Alaska, responding to a petition submitted in March 2022 by the Center for Biological Diversity and Save the North Pacific Right Whale. The petition requested that the agency include thousands of square nautical miles the whale relies on for feeding and migration.
Scientists estimate that only 30 individual North Pacific right whales may remain. With very few reproducing females, the species is at extreme risk of imminent extinction. The population ranges from the Bering Sea to Baja California.
According to Cooper Freeman, Alaska representative at the Center for Biological Diversity:
“I’m encouraged that North Pacific right whales may get these badly needed protections. There’s no time to waste in helping these whales, who are teetering right on the brink of extinction. We need to move fast and do everything we can to protect the places that are crucial to their survival.”
The NMFS’s initial finding triggered a thorough review of the whale’s current critical habitat designation, with a determination of how the agency will proceed required 12 months after the petition filing date.
NMFS confirmed this week in a Federal Register notice that it will revise the critical habitat area following additional study and analysis:
“This finding describes how we intend to proceed, particularly regarding analysis and review of the relevant data and information that have become available since North Pacific right whale critical habitat was designated in 2008.”
Kevin Campion, a boat captain and founder of Save the North Pacific Right Whale, said:
“As one of the rarest whales on the planet, North Pacific right whales require a dedicated effort to recover. We’re grateful to NOAA for recognizing these areas are critical to the whale’s survival. Now it’s time to work toward a thriving North Pacific right whale population.”
Check out the full NMFS notice here.