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Dear Decaturish – Why Atlanta should care about North Atlantic Right Whales

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Dear Decaturish – Why Atlanta should care about North Atlantic Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Whale mother and calf. From http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/rightwhale/photos.htm

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Dear Decaturish,

This month, a two-month-old North Atlantic right whale was found dead with signs of being struck by a boat. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Since 2017, there have been a total of 32 dead whales. With their two greatest threats being vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

Sadly, only around 360 North Atlantic right whales remain, with fewer than 80 breeding females. This incredibly low number makes them one of the most endangered large whales on the planet and it shows how devastating each mortality event is for the overall population’s survival.

As an Atlanta resident, a few hours away from the coast, you may be asking why should I care about this whale? Let me tell you why.

For generations, North Atlantic right whales were hunted for their baleen and oil. They even got their name for being the “right whale to hunt” because they moved slowly and would float after being killed. Despite becoming protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1970, North Atlantic right whale populations have continued to decline. As Georgia’s State Marine Mammal, the North Atlantic right whale is a symbol of loss and life. Their populations have experienced extreme loss and yet, they still fight for survival, one sweet calf at a time.

As a young person, it makes me sad and angry to think that my children or their children may exist in a world without North Atlantic right whales. What we do now impacts further generations, and we cannot afford to lose the magnificently gentle and majestic North Atlantic right whale.

On December 31, 2020, the Fisheries Service issued a Proposed Rule to reduce the risk of entanglement of right whales in fixed fishing gear in the U.S. Northeast. However, this rule is inadequate to protect these critically endangered gentle giants and does not meet legal requirements. NOAA NMSF proposes to make amends to this plan and is taking public comments until March 1.

If you want to take action to protect these critically endangered whales please sign this petition: https://bit.ly/3pQ3u97 or go to: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0031 to learn more and submit a public comment. North Atlantic right whales need your help!

– CJ O’Brien, Atlanta

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