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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fisheries Service Issues Gillnet Ban in South Atlantic

Today, the National Marine Fisheries service (NMFS) issued an emergency, temporary ban on gillnet fishing in the South Atlantic. The action is being taken to protect the North Atlantic right whale from accidental entanglement, the second leading cause of death for the highly endangered species.

The temporary ban will go into effect immediately and last until April 15, during the whale's calving season. The agency also issued today a proposed rule that would continue the ban during subsequent winter calving seasons.

"The emergency closure to guard against gillnet entanglements is required both by the letter of the law and the biology of the species", says Sierra Weaver, staff attorney for the Ocean Conservancy. "With only about 350 of these animals left, every death is a serious blow to the species' chances for survival and recovery."

The Ocean Conservancy and the Humane Society filed a petition in September on behalf of their members urging the service to close the gillnet fishery during the calving season. The Ocean Conservancy has a long history of working to protect right whales from human interactions.

In November 2005, the Ocean Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife and the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit against both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S.
Coast Guard for their failure to address the threat of ship strikes to highly endangered North Atlantic right whales. NMFS has stated that it anticipates implementing rules to address ship strikes in June of 2007.

"We've waited for years for the government to take responsibility for protecting this species. Hopefully the gillnet closure shows that they are finally ready to take appropriate action," Weaver says.


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