Letter to the Editor: Case closed

To the Editor: 

Judge Boasberg has ruled! A new accurate Environmental Species Act analysis has been ordered by next June. The NMFS just needs to put the lobster entanglement facts of the matter on paper and it’s “case closed. Not only was there an unusual mortality event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the right whales also stopped reproducing. Basically, the whales moved up into the SW GSL in 2015 and took the crab fishermen by surprise and also they set up feeding on copious copepods at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River where the spring flood of nutrients kicks off phytoplankton blooms. 

Unfortunately, this is directly under a shipping lane used solely by cruise ships that traveled at night starting at the end of April. Port records and ship tracking apps clearly show they were the only ships operating where 95 percent of the whales were killed. They were all Holland American out of Boston, Carnival Corp. 

It has become obvious that we have been barking up the wrong tree based on the few horrible photographs of entangled whales. Please look at these past facts that had the right whales on the road to extinction.  

In the order of negatives: 1.) Birthrate zero in 2018 for the first time; 2.) Carnival Cruise 18+ in last five years; 3.) Canadian crab eight in the past five years; 4.) Other ship strikes 2-3 per year?; 5.) Canadian and U.S. lobstering one-quarter whale per year for over 20 years; 6.) Maine lobstering zero for 20 years. 

Big changes this year in Canadian crab entanglements, cruise ship strikes and birthrate1.) Birthrate 10 and on the rise; 2.) Carnival Cruise zero COVID-19; 3.) Canadian crab zero (effective spot closures); 4.) Other ship strikes two, south of Cape Cod; 5. and 6.lobstering zero MaineMassachusetts and Canada. 

Some of the reasoning1.) Birth rate. We don’t know why the birthrate hit zero but Gulf of Mexico oil spill chemicals were detected as far north as North Carolina, coincidently at the beginning of the decline in birthrate2.) Cruise ships put out of business by COVID-19; 3.) Canadian crab. Under excellent whale watch surveillance and using spot closures where whales are locating, which has basically been in the same location, the SW corner of the GSL, since 2015 when the whales relocated up to the mouth of the St. Lawrence from the Bay of Fundy; 4.) Other ship strikes less now than 10 years ago since new ship speed reduction zones were put in place in the U.S.; 5. and 6.) Canadian and U.S. lobstering were never a threat to the species; always within an acceptable accidental take. 

This year the NARW are once again multiplying. 

Allowing cruise ships to sail through the GSL feeding area will be the biggest future anthropogenic cause for concern. 

Case closed. 

Whale population increased this year by seven or eight. They could have 20 next year. They had as many as 37 births just 10 years ago in 2009.   

 Jim O’Connell 

Bar Harbor 

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