ENTANGLED is a film about the race to save North Atlantic right whales from extinction. Fewer than 400 remain, making the whales among the planet’s most endangered species. The main threat to their survival, scientists say, lurks in the waters from New England to Atlantic Canada: hundreds of thousands of lobster lines, standard gear for North America’s most valuable fishery. Exacerbating that threat is climate change, which has sparked a collapse in the whale’s food supply in the warming waters of the Gulf of Maine, forcing them to search for food in areas where they had never been reported before. As a result, their population is plummeting. Deaths from entanglements are spiking and births are falling sharply. In 2018, no calves were born — an unprecedented observation — while the previous year, a record 17 were found dead. So far in 2019, eight have died. At the current rate of decline, scientists say the whales could go extinct within 20 years. Now, under pressure from lawsuits by environmental advocates to reduce right whale deaths, the federal government is considering controversial new regulations that pit the region’s politically powerful lobstermen against scientists and environmental advocates trying to save the whales. The proposed regulations, which could reduce lobster lines by half in much of the Gulf of Maine, have sparked a political backlash. The future of this iconic species hangs in the balance.
This week, a team of federal and state officials, scientists, fishermen, and others plan to meet in Providence and issue formal recommendations that seek to reduce whale deaths and serious injuries by as much as 80 percent.
In a major ruling, a federal judge concluded Thursday that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act.
The past decade has been devastating for the North Atlantic right whales, putting them on a path toward extinction. Scientists estimate that only about 400 remain.
Lobstermen are facing a new, imminent threat, one that could drastically change how they’ve operated for generations: regulations to protect North Atlantic right whales.