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Support Ropeless Fishing Gear to Save Whales

10,807 signatures toward our 30,000 Goal

36.02% Complete

Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

The Pacific humpback whale is a keystone species in the marine ecosystem, and its disappearance would have far-reaching consequences. Take action for this species!


The Pacific humpback whale is in danger of becoming extinct. Despite efforts to protect this magnificent species from commercial fishing gear, these attempts have fallen short.

A federal judge in San Francisco ruled that US wildlife officials violated their legal obligation to safeguard the endangered humpback whale. This was because they failed to protect the species from being killed in government-approved underwater fishing gear off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington1.

The National Marine Fisheries Service was required to include a plan to protect the whales when it issued a three-year offshore permit in 2021 to the commercial sablefish industry. This permit allowed sablefish, which are caught in tens of thousands of ocean-floor pots connected by long lines, but which can also entangle whales2.

The agency failed to require a "take-reduction plan" or protective strategy because it lacked funds to do so3. However, the law mandates the protection of species "whose level of incidental mortality and serious injury exceeds the potential biological removal level, those that have a small population size, and those which are declining most rapidly4."

According to NOAA data, humpback whales have been listed as endangered since the 1970s, and there has been a 400% increase since 2018 in serious injuries and deaths to the species from human activity, including nets and vessel strikes5. Whales are entangled in the underwater nets off the coast of the Bay Area and elsewhere in California and the Pacific Northwest6.

One way to reduce mortality would be to impose seasonal limits on undersea commercial fishing7. Another solution, ropeless fishing gear, lifts the underwater pots by pressing a button rather than leaving the entangling lines in place8. That gear is more expensive than the current equipment, which is why Congress has already approved some funding for its use in the Northeast9.

Humpback whales are known for their songs, which can last up to 20 minutes. They are renowned for their acrobatic displays, breaching and slapping the water. However, the commercial fishing industry and climate change are threatening their existence10. The Pacific humpback whale population is already vulnerable due to commercial whaling, which reduced their numbers by 90% in the early 20th century11. Additionally, climate change is affecting their habitat, reducing their food supply and forcing them to travel farther for sustenance.

Their numbers are recovering, but the species remains endangered.

The Pacific humpback whale is a keystone species in the marine ecosystem, and its disappearance would have far-reaching consequences12. The whales transport nutrients from the depths of the ocean to the surface, where they support the growth of phytoplankton, which provides oxygen for humans and marine life13. They also help to regulate the ocean’s food web, making them an essential part of the ecosystem13.

If we don't act now, we risk losing these magnificent creatures forever. We must take action to save the Pacific humpback whale from extinction. One way you can help is by signing the petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service, asking that they support ropeless fishing gear investment and implement a "take-reduction plan" to protect the whales from commercial fishing gear.

We need to ensure that the Pacific humpback whale is protected, and that they can continue to thrive in our oceans for generations to come.

Sign the petition now, and help save the Pacific humpback whale!

More on this issue:

  1. United States District Court Northern District of California (14 March 2023), "Order re Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment."
  2. Bob Egelko, The San Francisco Chronicle (14 March 2023), "U.S. failing to protect endangered humpback whales off Pacific coast, judge says."
  3. Sophia Prince, Jefferson Public Radio (17 January 2022), "Environmentalists sue to protect Pacific humpback whales from fishing entanglements."
  4. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Register (6 May 2021), "Taking of Threatened or Endangered Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Issuance of Permits."
  5. Office of Protected Resources, NOAA Fisheries (14 March 2023), "2016–2023 Humpback Whale Unusual Mortality Event Along the Atlantic Coast."
  6. Vanessa Pirotta, The Conversation (6 July 2022), "Why do whales keep getting tangled in shark nets? And what should you do if you see it happen?."
  7. Office of Sustainable Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries (6 February 2018), "Ending Overfishing Through Annual Catch Limits."
  8. Center for Biological Fishing Gear, "Ropeless Fishing Gear."
  9. David Abel, Boston Globe (1 March 2023), "State and federal officials for the first time allow ropeless lobstering in areas closed to protect right whales."
  10. Anna Marchand, National Marine Sanctuaries (September 2022), "Unraveling Mysteries of Humpback Whale Song."
  11. Daniel Cressey, Nature (11 March 2015), "World’s whaling slaughter tallied."
  12. NOAA Fisheries (8 March 2023), "Humpback Whale."
  13. University of Vermont (12 October 2010), "Whale poop pumps up ocean health."
  14. Whale Facts (2023), "Why Are Whales Important? | Environment and Ecosystem Impact."
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The Petition:

To the Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service,

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the Pacific Humpback whale population and urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to take action to protect this iconic species from extinction. We request the implementation of a detailed plan to safeguard the Pacific Humpback whale population, including supporting the adoption of ropeless fishing gear and imposing seasonal limits on undersea commercial fishing.

The Pacific Humpback whale population has been declining at an alarming rate due to a combination of factors, including entanglement in fishing gear and habitat loss. The use of traditional fishing gear with ropes has been identified as a significant threat to these whales, and we believe that the adoption of ropeless fishing gear will significantly reduce the risk of entanglement.

We also request the imposition of seasonal limits on undersea commercial fishing to protect the Pacific Humpback whale population during their breeding and feeding periods. This measure will help ensure that the whales have sufficient access to food and can safely navigate the ocean without the risk of entanglement.

We urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to take swift action to implement these measures and protect the Pacific Humpback whale population from further decline. We believe that these steps are essential to the long-term survival of this species and the preservation of our natural world.

Sincerely,

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Signatures: