WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), along with Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill to protect the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. Senator Booker is also a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Nelson is the top Democrat on the Senate’s Commerce Committee, which oversees ocean policy. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), along with Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), and Bill Keating (D-Mass.), has introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives.
Today is World Oceans Day.
The SAVE Right Whales Act of 2018 (S. 3038) establishes a new grant program to fund collaborative projects between states, nongovernmental organization, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce the impacts of human activities on North Atlantic right whales.
There are fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remaining in the world, with a population that has struggled to recover from overexploitation by the whaling industry.
“In the First State, we know just how important protecting a healthy ocean environment is for our beaches, coastal communities and the diverse marine life that depend on it,” said Senator Carper. “On this World Oceans Day, I’m proud to join Senators Booker and Nelson to introduce a bill that aims to save the North Atlantic right whale – one of the most endangered large whales in the world that migrates off the coast of Delaware. Really lucky Delawareans have even spotted these magnificent creatures from our beaches. The right whale is an important part of our ocean ecosystem, and it is my hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to spot them off our coasts for many years to come. Now is the right time to save the right whale!”
“If we don’t take immediate action, the storied North Atlantic right whale could go extinct in our lifetimes,” Senator Booker said. “We have a responsibility to find and implement solutions that will help protect endangered species for generations to come. The best way to help the right whale is to provide resources to the on-the-ground stakeholders and experts who are best positioned to find these solutions.”
“We need to step up our efforts to protect endangered species. Among those, the North Atlantic right whale is a critically endangered with only a few left in the wild. That’s why I recently signed a letter to NOAA urging them to complete a review of Canada’s right whale protection measures, and I'm now cosponsoring this bill,” said Senator Menendez. “As we continue to take steps to curtail human-caused incidents that have directly led to the death or injury of the right whale, the SAVE Right Whales Act will further our efforts to protect the species by creating a $5M a year grant for conservation projects."
“Right whales rely on Florida waters for their crucial breeding grounds, but we’re not seeing any new calves,” Senator Nelson said. “This is a troubling development that requires quick action to find ways to protect the remaining whales to bring the population back to healthy levels.”
“The North Atlantic right whale is highly endangered, and if Congress doesn’t act now, it could quickly go extinct,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It would be an irreversible loss to our natural world if we let this happen under our watch, and we all have a responsibility to help make sure that doesn’t happen. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation, and I will continue doing everything I can to protect our fragile marine ecosystems.”
“The waters off Massachusetts are home to one of the planet’s most endangered species, the Right Whale,” Representative Moulton said. “By providing competitive grants for Right Whale conservation projects, we can generate innovative solutions for saving an entire species. Let’s preserve some of earth’s greatest animals for future generations, rather than be a generation responsible for their irreversible demise.”
Despite protection from whaling since the 1930s, North Atlantic right whales are still vulnerable to ship collisions and entanglements with fishing gear, the two leading causes of injury and death to the whales today. The U.S. fishing and shipping industries have taken major steps to address these conflicts, and there are opportunities to develop improved solutions across both industries to tackle the ongoing challenge of protecting the whales. The past year was one of the worst years on record for the species, with 18 confirmed deaths between 2017 and 2018 and no new calves observed this year – the first time no calves were observed since surveys began nearly 30 years ago.
The following groups have endorsed the SAVE Right Whales Act:
- Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Conservation Law Foundation
- Defenders of Wildlife
- Humane Society of the United States
- Humane Society Legislative Fund
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- New England Aquarium
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