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Northeast Fisheries Science Center
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Teri Frady
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October 5, 2010
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NOAA to Revise Critical Habitat for North Atlantic Right Whales
North Atantic right whale breathing at surface
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North Atlantic right whale breathing at surface. Credit: NOAA, research permit 775-1875
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More on North Atlantic right whales

NOAA’s Fisheries Service today announced that it is reviewing and revising critical habitat designations for the North Atlantic right whale and expects to propose changes in the latter half of 2011.

"Critical habitat" is an area that contains physical or biological features that may require special management and that are essential to the conservation of the species. The agency designated three critical habitat areas in U.S. waters for these whales in 1994: calving grounds off Florida and Georgia and feeding grounds in Cape Cod Bay and the Great South Channel, both off Massachusetts.

In 2008, the listing of Northern right whales was changed by listing North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales as separate species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In 2009, NOAA received a petition to enlarge existing,and designate new,critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. NMFS received the petition while conducting an ongoing analysis and evaluation of new information available since the 1994 designation that indicates the designation should be revised.

Today's announcement finds that the petition includes substantial scientific information indicating that a revision to the areas may be warranted. It also explains that the agency is proceeding with the petition by working on a rule to propose revisions to the critical habitat designation for this species.

NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nationís living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public.

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