The federal government proposed a new rule today to designate 302,961 square nautical miles in the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat for three populations of endangered humpback whales. The proposal is to help protect migrating whales from ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and oil spills.
The rule designates 48,459 square miles of critical habitat off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington for the humpback population that winters in Central America. The Mexico population got 175,812 square miles in the North Pacific Ocean, including Bristol Bay, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska — regions that also made up the 78,690 square miles listed for the Western North Pacific humpback population. Eliminating the overlap among the three populations, a total of 175,812 square miles are proposed for protection (proposed maps available here).