Monday, July 9, 2018
Senator Booker legislation would establish a new grant program to fund collaborative research to reduce the impacts of human activities on North Atlantic right whales
Washington (July 9, 2018) – With fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remaining, 17 confirmed deaths in 2017, and no observed calves this year, the species could become functionally extinct in twenty years if immediate action isn’t taken. In light of this crisis, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in co-sponsoring his Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act (S. 3038) after gaining the support of fishermen, lobstermen, and environmentalists in New England. The SAVE Right Whales Act establishes a new grant program to fund collaborative projects among states, research institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce the impacts of human activities on North Atlantic right whales. The bill would authorize $5 million in new funding annually from 2018-2028. In April, Senator Markey led 11 of his colleagues in requesting that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conduct an urgent assessment of the impacts to the North Atlantic right whale from fisheries in Canada.
“The North Atlantic right whale is in crisis, and a unified effort along the entire extent of its range is needed to prevent the extinction of this treasured species,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Right whales are an iconic and integral part of our marine heritage in Massachusetts. We must vow not to repeat our history, when, generations ago, the right whale was hunted to near extinction. With the support of political leaders, fishermen, lobstermen, and the environmental and conservation communities, we can help the right whale recover and flourish again in our waters.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Other Senators co-sponsoring the legislation include Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
“The future of the right whale greatly depends on the collective efforts of scientists, researchers, managers and fishermen alike to work for the best possible result, while allowing fishermen to fish and whales to feed in the waters off of Massachusetts safely,” said Beth Casoni, Executive Director of Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. “The establishment of this Act is imperative and the time is now, given the Unusual Morality Events of 2017. We greatly appreciate Senator Markey’s efforts to help the Massachusetts lobster industry in looking for a solution.”
“This proposed bill is a great start toward finding solutions that protect both whales and the fishing industry. It calls for science-led conservation efforts with all stakeholders working cooperatively,” said Scott Kraus, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Scientist of Marine Mammal Conservation at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium. “Researchers, fishermen and government officials coming together is the only way that sustainable change will happen.”
“North Atlantic right whales are in dire need of our help,” said Dr. Priscilla Brooks, Vice President and Director of Ocean Conservation at Conservation Law Foundation. “This magnificent species is on the brink of extinction, with less than 450 whales remaining on the planet. We need to develop long-term solutions to protect right whales as soon as possible, and this bill is a meaningful step forward. We’re thankful for Senator Markey’s leadership on this critically important issue.”
“Our region’s lobstermen have bent over backwards to find ways to keep their lines from tangling up with whales,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Fishermen’s Alliance. “We are committed to a vital ocean as well as commercial fishing, and we’ll do everything we can to accomplish both goals. A bill like this, if passed, would help us get there.”
“The SAVE Right Whales Act is an enormous step forward and demonstrates the United State’ commitment to saving this critically endangered species. IFAW applauds Senator Markey’s decision to co-sponsor this bill, his steadfast leadership on this issue, and for creating the opportunity to further expand existing conservation efforts,” said Azzedine Downes, President & CEO of International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Organizations endorsing the legislation include the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, Conservation Law Foundation, New England Aquarium, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Oceana.