Breaking! U.S. Senate Committee Passes Legislation To Protect Less Than 400 North Atlantic Right Whales That Remain On Earth

Photo by: Center For Biological Diversity

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a markup on (S. 2453) The Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act, led by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Tom Carper (D-DE). The measure would protect the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered whales on the planet. It would establish a grant program to promote collaboration efforts between states, non-governmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce human impacts on right whales and promote the recovery of their population.

North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christin Khan

“I commend the Senate for moving quickly on this measure. Local marine fisheries will do well to implement the flexible plan developed by top state fishery officials as soon as possible to support the conservation of this critically endangered species,” said Gina Garey, Maine State Director at Animal Wellness Action. Ms. Garey, who is an animal behavior scientist testified on the North Atlantic right whale protections at a NOAA field hearing in Maine in August of this year.

Photo by Center For Biological Diversity

For years, overexploitation by the whaling industry caused North Atlantic right whale numbers to plummet, leading to their designation as an endangered species in 1970. Despite federal protection, right whales experience high levels of mortality from rope entanglements and lines used in commercial fishing and ship strikes. These forms of human-caused mortality prevented their recovery. Only about 400 North Atlantic right whales remain on earth today.

Dead North Atlantic Right whale off the coast of Long Island, New York. Credit: NY Department of Environmental Conservation

Senate bill, S. 2453, and its House companion bill, H.R. 1568, led by U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA), and John Rutherford (R-FL), is supported by: Animal Wellness Action, the Animal Wellness Foundation, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the Endangered Species Coalition, and many other animal welfare groups. Moulton and Rutherford also secured $2.5 million in the FY 2020 House Appropriations package for additional research funding related to the North Atlantic right whales.

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