That's especially important because right whales have been spotted outside their typical migratory patterns in recent years, and that can take boaters by surprise, Asmutis-Silvia said.
“This isn't just about protecting right whales, it's about protecting boaters, too,” Asmutis-Silvia said. “To me, it's a safety issue for both the vessels and the right whales. They're not easy to see, and they're in newer habitats that people aren't as used to seeing them in.”
A spokesperson for the fisheries service declined to comment because the lawsuit is still active.
Right whale conservation has been a contentious topic in recent years because of the potential economic impact of protecting the whales on shipping and commercial fishing. The Maine lobster industry is dealing with a suite of new rules to try to save the whales.
However, a Maine lobster fishing union in October won relief in court to try to stop the closure of fishing grounds off the state. A federal judge said the rules had the potential to economically damage the fishing industry without protecting the whales.
The whales were once abundant off New England, but they were decimated during the commercial whaling era. They've been protected under the Endangered Species Act for decades.