It may not be the first threat that comes to mind on endangered whales, but conservation groups say certain lobster traps pose a serious risk and should be immediately banned, reports Courthouse News Service. Advocates filed an emergency petition on Wednesday asking the federal government to ban traps that have vertical lines connecting them to buoys on the surface. The whales in question are North Atlantic right whales, per a post at SeafoodSource.com, and the numbers involved suggest the species is in a precarious position. An estimated 360 exist in the world, and only 70 of them are breeding females. The problem is that right whales tend to get snagged in the traps' vertical lines, often with fatal consequences, explains Yale Environment 360.
“We filed this petition because it is an emergency situation,” says Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are killing off right whales faster than they can reproduce.” Over the summer, a federal judge ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to study the matter and come up with new regulations by May 2021, and Wednesday's emergency petition asks that the ban be put into effect in the interim. Not all lobster pots use the vertical lines, and those traps would be exempted. WBUR notes that part of Cape Cod Bay is off limits for lobster fishing at certain times of the year to protect the whales, and wildlife groups want to expand those restrictions as well. “If we don’t do anything, this species will be functionally extinct in 25 years,” says veterinarian Sarah Sharp of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. (Read more whales stories.)