FERN’s Friday Feed: Can the courts save the world’s rarest whale?

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Suing to save right whales

FERN and Yale Environment 360

With only an estimated 360 left, the fight to save the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered species on the planet, has grown urgent — at sea and in the courts, as Rene Ebersole explains. “Scientists are using cutting-edge acoustic technology to monitor right whales and identify where they are coming into contact with ships and fishing lines; rescue teams in the U.S. and Canada are scrambling to disentangle animals when they’re spotted; and environmental advocates are suing state and federal agencies to protect the whales.”

The rise and fall of Joel Salatin

Mother Jones

For nearly two decades, Salatin was the sustainable-ag movement’s most famous farmer — but only because those celebrating him ignored the racist and entitled underpinnings of his ideas. “Black farmers have been evicted from the land by a century of racist policies,” writes Tom Philpott. “Today, only about 36,000 of them remain, making up just 1.7 percent of the nation’s farm owners … Neither Salatin’s homilies about the rugged individual nor his libertarian zeal has anything to offer to most young Black people looking to farm. Rather, his brand of libertarianism serves as a beard to justify the kind of white domination of the US economy that endures today.”

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Why the Great Lakes food web is breaking down

National Geographic

“A thriving, complex food web is crucial to the health of one of Earth’s largest surface freshwater ecosystems. But introductions and invasions of non-native aquatic plants and animals, the harvesting and stocking of top predator fish, and elevated nutrient and contaminant levels have snarled the Great Lakes food web, affecting fisheries, wildlife, and the health of the ecosystem.”

As the virus spread, a pork plant sacrificed safety for profit

USA Today and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

A five-month-long investigation found Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, the second-largest pork processing plant in the country, “failed to respond with effective safeguards during a crucial period from mid-March to mid-April that could have contained the spread of COVID-19. And local health officials, who received complaints from employees and their family members, missed several opportunities to investigate. They instead took the company’s word that it was doing all it could to protect its workers.”

How a deal to end trade of endangered species may backfire

Knowable Magazine

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was designed to curtail trade of endangered species and limit trade in species that are at risk of overexploitation, writes Natasha Gilbert. “But some scientists and wildlife trade experts worry that CITES bans … may be backfiring, by encouraging rather than suppressing trade in a species. ‘As products become rarer, prices and demand increase. You just hit species all the way into extinction,’ says Brett Scheffers, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida.”