A Georgia congressman is attempting to stop President Joe Biden and his administration from enacting new boating restrictions to protect a critically endangered whale.
Scientists say there are fewer than 340 North Atlantic right whales left on the planet, and their migration pattern along the East Coast brings them in close contact with large ships and potentially deadly collisions.
Among other changes, the new regulations would do away with voluntary speed restrictions for boats, and put mandatory zones in place depending on where the whales are in their migration pattern.
In Massachusetts, the restrictions would be in place from Nov. 1 to May 30. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, said he introduced a bill to block the new regulations over concerns about his state’s commercial fishing industry.
Gib Brogan, campaign director for the nonprofit conservation group Oceana, said the North Atlantic right whale species can’t afford to have any delay in implementing these changes.
“This is a species that is, in the words of the federal government, in steep decline,” Brogan said. “We need to do far more to protect these species, but as one of the lead scientists at the New England Aquarium said, this species will come back if we just stop killing them.”
There have been 13 documented right whale deaths from boat collisions in the past 15 years. Brogan said scientists have estimated if more than one whale is killed each year, the species will be in grave danger.
“If we don’t do enough, then the alternative is watching this species continue to slide towards extinction, and that’s an unacceptable outcome,” Brogan said.
Oceana’s research shows roughly 90% of large boats have failed to comply with the current voluntary speed zones.
Brogan hopes to see the regulations take effect by this fall, when mother whales will give birth off the coasts of South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
“It was a strong proposal from the government,” Brogan said. “Of course, we have suggestions for other things that could be added, but what the government has proposed will significantly improve the safeguards that are on the water right now. We’re calling on the Biden administration to move forward and finalize these protections for the fall.”