A judge ruled against an environmental group in a lawsuit that sought to force the U.S. Coast Guard to better protect blue whales after several were killed by ships in the Santa Barbara Channel off Southern California.
U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney rejected an argument by the Center for Biological Diversity that the Coast Guard should comply with the Endangered Species Act when it regulates ship traffic. Chesney issued a summary judgment Monday in San Francisco.
The judge said the Coast Guard’s daily management of shipping traffic does not by itself trigger Endangered Species Act requirements. The center failed to show that the agency is engaged in any specific action that would require it to initiate such measures, the judge said.
Andrea Treece, an attorney for the environmental group, said the center has not decided whether to appeal the decision.
“It’s unfortunate the judge took such a narrow view of what was before her,” Treece said.
The Coast Guard declined to comment on the suit. After the whale deaths, the Coast Guard conducted aerial monitoring of whales and recommended that mariners reduce their speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel.
The lawsuit was filed after three of the endangered mammals were confirmed to have been hit by ships and another two whale carcasses were spotted in 2007.
The incidents around the channel caught the group’s attention because the death toll was much higher than the acceptable level for non-natural whale deaths, said Treece, who called the deaths “heart-stopping.”
Fewer than 10,000 blue whales are left in the world’s oceans.
Blue whales normally pass through the channel on their way to feed in grounds further north and are usually gone by the end of August.
In 2007, however, a large number of whales stayed to feed in the channel, which holds some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.