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Submitted by ecofactory on Wed, 2010-05-26 12:45 in ENS News Wire
BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 26, 2010 (ENS) - Conservationists seeking to block oil drilling off the U.S. Atlantic coast today filed a lawsuit asking for expanded habitat protections for the endangered North Atlantic right whale to include the species' nursery, breeding and feeding grounds.
The lawsuit was filed in the District of Massachusetts federal court in Boston by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
One of about 350 North Atlantic right whales breaches in the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Commission)
In areas designated as critical habitat for an federally listed endangered species, the federal government must ensure that federally permitted activities such as oil drilling, commercial fishing, military training, and vessel traffic will not diminish the value of the habitat in a way that will impair recovery of the species. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama endorsed opening the U.S. east coast to oil drilling, but he has temporarily suspended all new drilling permits in view of the month-long Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"The ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has shown that industrial activities in the ocean can affect not only the animals themselves, but the entire environment in which they live," said Sierra Weaver, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife.
"A similar catastrophe off the east coast of Georgia or Florida could make uninhabitable the only place on Earth that right whales give birth to their young," Weaver said. "The government must consider such risks when deciding if and where to permit these types of activities."
Listed under the Endangered Species Act more than 30 years ago, the population of the North Atlantic right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, numbers only around 350 individuals, making it one of the world's most endangered whales.
The lawsuit challenges the National Marine Fisheries Service's failure to respond to the groups' 2009 legal petition seeking expanded critical habitat for the species under the Endangered Species Act. By law, the agency is required to take action on such a petition within 90 days.
More at ...http://www.ecofactory.com/news/lawsuit-seeks-habitat-protection-endangered-north-atlantic-right-whale-052610