NOAA Fisheries has expanded protected habitats for the North Atlantic right whales by more than sixfold, from about 4,500 nautical miles to nearly 30,000 nautical miles. The expansion includes feeding grounds here off the New England coast.
The North Atlantic right whale loves to eat small and microscopic crustaceans called copepods, which are abundant in the North Atlantic. That’s why NOAA Fisheries has increased the area of these important feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank.
The federal agency has also protected areas off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, where right whales like to raise their young.
These protected critical habitats don’t come with any new regulations or restrictions on commercial fishing or shipping operations.
But the protected designation could make it more difficult for other federal agencies to approve activities that could change or harm these critical habitats – activities like offshore oil drilling and exploration, one of many threats to the nearly extinct North Atlantic right whale. Only about 450 remain.