Trump Administration Tosses Rule Protecting Endangered Whales and Sea Turtles

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

I’m sorry to do this to you—and myself—but I have to add yet another shitty item to this week’s overflowing toilet of distressing news: the Trump administration has opted to discard a new rule that aimed to reduce the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles caught in sword-fishing nets. Whales: who needs ‘em?


CBS News reports that the National Marine Fisheries Service decided that the new protection—which included endangered fin, humpback, sperm, and short-fin pilot whales in addition to bottlenose dolphins, endangered leatherback sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, olive-ridley sea turtles and green sea turtles—was unnecessary:

The regulation was designed to reduce the numbers of humpback whales, leatherback sea turtles and other large creatures that accidentally become tangled in mile-long nets set adrift by commercial fishermen overnight to catch swordfish off California and Oregon.

The regulation allowed for shutting down swordfish fishing with the drift nets for up to two fishing seasons if too many of the endangered animals were getting caught in the nets.

The NOAA analysis concluded that the cost of the protections outweighed the benefits, the Los Angeles Times reports, and that other protections (such as sound warnings attached to fishing nets and better training for skippers) have already been addressing the issue. “The fishery was been under pressure for years to reduce its impact, and it has been very successful doing that,” said Michael Milstein, a NOAA fisheries spokesman. “The cap would have imposed a cost on the industry to solve a problem that has already been addressed.”

But for populations under such a high level of threat, argues Catherine Kilduff, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, even seemingly small numbers of fatalities need to be taken seriously. From the LA Times:

Kilduff said, however, that protections are still necessary because rare species, such as leatherback turtles, humpback whales and sperm whales, are still being killed and injured in gill nets.

There are so few examples of some species that if gill nets kill even one or two, the overall effect can be devastating, she said.

“Government scientists have said that West Coast fisheries can’t catch more than one leatherback every five years,” she said. “They estimate that four times that have caught just in the gill-net fishery alone.”

Unfortunately, this action is nowhere near the extent of what the Trump administration has in store for our prized ocean wildlife. Last week Trump signed an order reviving a NOAA proposal that would allow five energy companies to use seismic air guns to explore offshore drilling possibilities off the Atlantic coast. Setting aside the incredible stupidity and massive destructiveness of offshore drilling, seismic air guns are known to be injurious and even fatal to marine mammals, who rely on their hearing for pretty much everything—feeding, migration, communication, mating, etc. Meanwhile, the US Marine Mammal Commission, which provides oversight on marine mammal conservation policies carried out by the federal government would be dismantled under Trump’s proposed budget.

You can donate to the Natural Resources Defense Council here.

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.


Pumpkin Andy is Orange

Cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Is this what turns on his rabid redneck fans?