By David Abel and Andy Laub
There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales in the world, making them among the planet’s most endangered species. Threatening their survival are vessel strikes and millions of lobster lines stretching from New England to Canada. Climate change has exacerbated the threat. As the Gulf of Maine has warmed, the whales' food supply has collapsed in portions of their feeding grounds. As a result, they have migrated to areas where there were few protections. The population has also plunged by about 25 percent since 2010, with most of those deaths occurring in recent years. At this rate of decline, scientists say the whales could go extinct within 20 years.
Under pressure, the government has proposed controversial regulations that pit the region’s politically powerful lobstermen against scientists and environmental advocates trying to save the whales. These regulations could substantially reduce lobster lines and harm the livelihoods of many lobstermen.
ENTANGLED chronicles the efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales, the impacts of those efforts on the lobster industry, and how the National Marine Fisheries Service has struggled to balance the vying interests.