California state officials have released a final rule to reduce the risk of endangered whale and sea turtle entanglement in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The new regulations, which went into effect on November 1, were prompted by steep annual increases in reported whale entanglements and a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity.
“It’s good to see California finally taking whale entanglements seriously,” said Kristen Monsell, the Center’s oceans legal director, in a statement. “This new system should reduce the risk crab gear poses to whales and sea turtles. But we’re disappointed that officials didn’t do more to encourage a conversion to ropeless gear, which is the only way to truly eliminate the threat of entanglement for these ocean animals.”
Entanglements in the thick ropes that are connected to heavy commercial Dungeness crab traps injure and kill whales and sea turtles. The ropes cut into the animals’ flesh, sap their strength and lead to drowning. Each entanglement of a humpback whale, blue whale or leatherback sea turtle, besides causing needless suffering and loss of life, violates the federal Endangered Species Act.
The state’s new “Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program” evaluates the likely presence of whales and sea turtles, among other factors, to determine if mitigation measures, such as shortening the season or closing an area to crab gear, are needed to reduce the risk of entanglements. The new rule also allows ropeless gear to be used during a closure occurring on or after April 1, but not during other parts of the season, as the Center has called for to better incentivize its adoption.
A lawsuit filed in 2017 by the Center led to an agreement last year with the state and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association that ended the last two crab seasons early to avoid the spring whale migration and required adoption of new regulations to prevent entanglements before the new crab season begins later this month.
The National Marine Fisheries Service confirmed 26 whale entanglements off the West Coast in 2019, three of which involved California commercial Dungeness crab gear and 15 of which could not be pegged to a particular fishery. Of the 26 confirmed whale entanglements, 17 were humpback whales, eight were gray whales and one was a minke whale. An endangered leatherback sea turtle was also found dead and entangled in rock crab gear.
The Center filed its lawsuit after whale entanglements off California’s coast broke records for three straight years, peaking with 66 reported entanglements in 2016. Of the 29 cases where the gear could be identified, 22 were commercial Dungeness crab gear from California.
In November 2018, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it would seek federal permits for allowing its crab fishery to harm endangered whales and sea turtles. The RAMP rulemaking is part of the process for obtaining that federal authorization.
The post California State Officials Approve Regulations To Reduce Endangered Whale and Sea Turtle Entanglements In Crab Gear Off The Coast appeared first on World Animal News.
A lawsuit was filed against the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for new regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that will shield federally-funded factory farms — known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) — and slaughterhouses from environmental review. The new regulations also limit the ability of the public to know about and challenge harm caused by these facilities.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations generate massive amounts of waste, contaminating air, drinking water, and surface waters, and impact the health of both people and animals; all while farmed animals are cruelly confined to small crates sometimes where they can barely stand or even turn around.
One way the federal government props up this cruel industry is by providing millions of dollars annually in financial assistance to new and expanding CAFOs and slaughterhouses.
Under previous NEPA regulations, federal agencies were required to assess and make public the environmental impact of a new or expanding factory farm or slaughterhouse before any federal funding was approved.
CEQ’s new rule allows the government to continue supporting the CAFO industry without accounting for any of the environmental impacts, all the while keeping the public in the dark.
“Factory farms and slaughterhouses already operate with little accountability or transparency for the harm they cause to animals and nearby communities,” Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director, Stephen Wells, said in a statement. “The NEPA environmental review provides the public with information about the harm these facilities cause and a chance to speak up before the government helps build and expand factory farms and slaughterhouses in their communities.”
“Often, the CAFO industry shows up in rural areas without any notice or consideration of how it will impact people’s health or the local environment, injuring residents without any chance for them to be heard or a clear remedy,” stated Kelly Hunter Foster, Waterkeeper Alliance’s Senior Attorney. “NEPA requires that people be considered stakeholders when major projects are proposed in their communities. CEQ’s new regulations attempt to rewrite these clear statutory requirements to shield a major polluting industry from environmental review.”
Without the transparency provided by NEPA’s environmental review, communities may not even be aware of the construction of slaughterhouses and new factory farms, or the expansion of existing ones, until it is far too late.
CEQ’s new rule specifically exempts Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Small Business Administration (SBA) loan guarantees to CAFOs from NEPA review entirely, leaving federal agencies with the ability to guarantee loans for CAFOs that are unable to receive financing anywhere else without having to conduct any environmental review first.
Additional provisions in CEQ’s rule could further limit or prevent environmental review of government support for the factory farming industry, including language that could force federal agencies to overlook the climate change impacts of factory farming.
The Council on Environmental Quality’s new rule will also make it more difficult for members of the public to bring legal challenges when federal agencies fail to adequately review the environmental impacts of the actions, further hobbling communities’ ability to protect themselves.
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