Critical Habitat for North Pacific Right Whales
We, NOAA Fisheries, announce a 90-day finding on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to revise the critical habitat designation for the North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica ) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In April 2008, we issued a final rule designating approximately 3,050 square kilometers (~1,175 square miles) and approximately 91,850 square kilometers (~35,460 square miles) of critical habitat for North Pacific right whales in the Gulf of Alaska and the Southeast Bering Sea, respectively. The petition requests we revise this critical habitat.
We find that the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted. We are hereby initiating a review of the currently designated critical habitat to determine whether revision is warranted. To ensure a comprehensive review, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to this action.
How to Comment
To ensure that our review of North Pacific right whale critical habitat is complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting new information. Members of the public, governmental agencies, tribes, the scientific community, industry, environmental entities, and any other interested parties can comment.
Scientific and commercial information pertinent to the petitioned action must be received by close of business on September 12, 2022.
You may submit comments, information, or data on this document using the link in the Overview box at left, or by submitting written information to:
- Jon Kurland, Alaska Regional Administrator, NOAA Fisheries, Attn: Records Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-166
In 2000, NOAA Fisheries received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to revise the critical habitat designation for the northern right whale by designating a new area within the eastern Bering Sea as critical habitat for right whales in the North Pacific. NOAA Fisheries determined in 2002 that the petition was not warranted at that time because the essential biological requirements of the population in the North Pacific Ocean were not sufficiently understood. In 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity notified us of their intent to sue for failing to designate critical habitat.
By ruling dated June 14, 2005, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ordered (PDF, 11 pages) NOAA Fisheries to publish a conclusive determination by October 28, 2005 by either proposing designation of an area in the North Pacific ocean as critical habitat for right whales or by explaining why such designation should not occur due to more paramount statutory considerations.
On January 26, 2006, NOAA Fisheries made a positive initial finding on the Center for Biological Diversity's petition, finding that it "presents substantial information indicating that the requested action may be warranted." Under the Endangered Species Act, once a positive initial finding on a petition is made, NOAA Fisheries has one year from the date it received the petition to either issue a proposed rule-listing the species or find that such listing is "not warranted." NOAA Fisheries never released the 12-month finding, and it was due no later than August 19, 2006.
On October 6, 2006 the Center for Biological Diversity sent NOAA Fisheries a 60-day notice of intent to sue as required by the ESA, putting the agency on notice that they would file litigation (PDF, 14 pages) if the finding was not timely issued. In the litigation, the Center for Biological Diversity requested that NOAA Fisheries make the overdue 12-month finding on the petition.
In April 2008, after the North Pacific right whale was listed as a separate, endangered species (distinct from the North Atlantic right whale), NOAA Fisheries designated critical habitat for the North Pacific right whale within the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea.
Effective May 8, 2008, NOAA Fisheries designated critical habitat for the North Pacific right whale in this rulemaking. The North Pacific right whale was recently listed as a separate, endangered species, and because this was a newly listed entity, we were required to designate critical habitat for it.
The following materials present observations of North Pacific right whales in U.S. waters from 1940 to 2005 and for the broader timeframes of the 1800s, the 1900s and the late 20th century. The information in these materials is one of the bases for evaluating designation of critical habitat and shows the locations of harvested whales, as well as recent sightings and acoustic recordings of north pacific right whales.
- Habitat Requirements and Extinction Risks of Eastern North Pacific Right Whales (PDF, 64 pages)
- Observations of North Pacific Right Whales in U.S. Waters from 1940 to 2005 (PDF, 1 page)
- Historic and Current Habitat Use by North Pacific Right Whales, Eubalaena japonica, in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska (PDF, 27 pages)