The Inefficacy of Statutory Protections for the North Atlantic Right Whale

September 2023
ELR 10712
Emma Green

Since 2017, 115 North Atlantic right whales (NARWs) have been documented dead, seriously injured, or sporting sublethal injuries and illnesses. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as an unusual mortality event, and assert that entanglement and vessel strikes are the leading causes. Fewer than 350 NARWs remain, and it is estimated that only one-third of their deaths are documented. Experts claim that only “quick and decisive action from humans” can ensure the species’ survival. Some proposed regulations will affect where and how the relevant fisheries are able to operate. The NARW also gains certain protections under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. But exacerbated by climate change, the future of the NARW is uncertain at best. This Comment explores the conflicting interests between conservationists attempting to see that statutes and regulations protecting NARWs are adhered to, and federal lobster fisheries fighting the same statutes and regulations.

Emma Green is a 2024 J.D./MELP candidate at Vermont Law & Graduate School.

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