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New critical habitat areas for North Atlantic right whales

GLOUCESTER, MA – Effective Feb. 26, NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) was designating two expanded North Atlantic right whale critical habitat areas to replace the existing critical habitat boundaries established in 1994.

NMFS proposed the new areas last year under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after a decade of reviewing new research into the distribution, calving, feeding, and prey of the right whales.

However, the new critical habitat designations (CHD) do not implement any new regulations expanding the existing gear restrictions or management measures for commercial fisheries, said Mark Minton, fisheries biologist for the Protected Resources Div. of NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Office (GARFO).

Those restrictions are intended to protect right whales directly, not their habitat, and are promulgated under the Marine Mammal Act’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.

Plan regulations are developed in consultation with the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team which includes commercial fishing industry members, conservationists, researchers, and state biologists.

Critical habitat areas must meet two criteria to be designated:…

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