NOAA violated federal law by not doing enough to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from entanglements caused by lobster fishing gear, a federal judge said Friday.
In his ruling, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the agency broke both the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) when it issued a biological opinion and a final rule that changed fishing gear requirements last year.
Boasberg declared both the biological opinion and the rule “invalid” and said more needs to be done to protect the whales.
The judge acknowledged that “this may seem a severe result” for both NOAA Fisheries and the lobster industry but added that “no actor here … operates free from the strict requirements imposed by the MMPA and ESA.”
NOAA declined to comment.
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