The Secretariat for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), has agreed to move forward with the first step in a two-step process to investigate the USA’s failure to uphold its environmental laws to protect North Atlantic right whales, according to an Oceana announcement this week.
The decision was in response to Oceana’s filing the first-ever “Submission on Enforcement Matters” against the US government under the USMCA last October. The ocean advocacy organization claimed the government has violated the USMCA by failing to enforce environmental laws to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which only around 330 remain.
According to Whitney Webber, campaign director at Oceana:
“We applaud the CEC Secretariat for taking the first step in the USMCA process to hold the United States accountable to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. It’s clear that the U.S. government is failing to uphold its own environmental laws to protect North Atlantic right whales from its top threats, and Oceana will continue to use all available tools to force action. There’s no time to waste; now that we have passed this first step, we encourage the CEC Council Members to vote yes to start the investigation at their July meeting to help save North Atlantic right whales from extinction — before it’s too late for these majestic whales.”
Under the USMCA, public stakeholders can hold any of the three countries accountable for not effectively enforcing their environmental laws, such as the USA’s Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.
According to Oceana’s complaint, the federal government isn’t fully complying with, implementing or enforcing numerous environmental laws to protect North Atlantic right whales from their primary threats of fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes.
Following the Secretariat’s decision, the second step is a vote by CEC Council Members — the environment ministers for each country — to pursue the formal investigation. If approved, the investigation can take up to six months to complete. The end result could have the USA face trade restrictions.
Check out Oceana’s full complaint here.