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Federal judge to consider lawsuit aimed at protecting imperiled Rice’s whales from extinction

A critically endangered Rice's whale
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
A critically endangered Rice's whale

Friday, Jan. 6, a U.S. District Court hearing in Greenbelt, MD, will mark the latest step in a legal battle to prevent extinction of the rarest whale species on the planet. It is believed that fewer than 100 Rice’s whales exist. Their small population is concentrated in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico where they face threats from marine vessel traffic, ocean noise and ongoing oil and gas activity, including the threat of future oil spills.

Rice’s whales had been believed to be Bryde’s whales until findings published in the journal Marine Mammal Science in 2021, showed them to be a distinct and unique species of whale.

In 2020, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit challenging a biological opinion under the Trump administration that they argue does not appropriately take into account the risks oil and gas activity poses to imperiled species in the Gulf of Mexico. Friday’s federal court hearing will consider whether to dismiss that lawsuit. We take a closer look with Earthjustice Oceans Program Senior Attorney Chris Eaton.

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