U.S. Congress Urged To Give $300 Million To Help Protect Endangered Marine Species

Photo Credit: Center for Biological Diversity

More than 80 conservation organizations recently urged Congress to increase the budget for the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to protect marine mammals, sea turtles, and other federally protected marine species. The original amount of $175.5 million would increase to $475.5 million.

Last week’s letter notes that more than one-third of all marine mammals face extinction in the coming decades due to threats from climate change, fisheries bycatch, pollution, exploitation, and habitat loss. Despite the urgency of the situation, the budget of the Fisheries Service has remained flat in recent years when taking into account record-high inflation rates.

“It breaks my heart to watch these incredible animals fight so desperately to survive while Congress refuses to do more than the bare minimum to save them,” said Stephanie Kurose, deputy director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Extinction is forever. Time is running out, and we need bold commitments from our leaders to do whatever it takes to bring these species back from the brink.”

The United States is home to several of the world’s most critically endangered marine mammals, including both the North Atlantic right whale and North Pacific right whale, the Gulf of Mexico Rice’s whale and the Southern Resident killer whale.

The letter includes specific funding requests for these species as well as vaquitas — the smallest and most endangered marine mammal on Earth, with only around 10 individuals left on the planet.

The letter requests $100 million to substantially ramp up the deployment of ropeless fishing gear, particularly in the American lobster/Jonah crab fishery in New England. Entanglements are one of the two main causes of North Atlantic right whale deaths, and this single fishery is responsible for the vast majority of right whale entanglements and deaths in U.S. waters.

In February a dead female right whale was found washed ashore in Edgartown, Massachusetts, with rope wrapped around her tail several times and deeply embedded in some places. The Fisheries Service determined that the markings on the rope were consistent with fishing gear used in Maine.

In December 2022 Senator Chuck Schumer inserted an unprecedented right whale policy rider into the FY2023 Omnibus funding bill. The measure gives the U.S. lobster fishery a six-year exemption from necessary actions to prevent fishing gear from entangling and killing critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

“These beautiful whales continue to suffer slow and painful deaths because of a backroom bargain made by a few members of Congress,” said Kurose. “Sen. Schumer and other anti-wildlife members of Congress must change course before our natural heritage is lost forever.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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