Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bill Keating was an original cosponsor of the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act. The legislation is sponsored by Congressmen Seth Moulton (MA-06) and John Rutherford (FL-04). The other original cosponsors are Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Rep. Bill Posey (FL-08).
According to the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest whales in the world. Today, only about 425 North Atlantic Right Whales remain. The SAVE Right Whales Act of 2019 would create government grants that states, non-profits, and members of the fishing and marine shipping industries can use to fund research and efforts that restore the North Atlantic right whale population.
“Protecting the right whale is one of the most important marine conservation objectives that faces us today,” Keating said. “This bill will help to mobilize our resources to ensure that these animals exist for our children and grandchildren. I look forward to working with my Canadian colleagues to guarantee that the United States and Canada both hold up their individual responsibilities towards right whale conservation.”
“We humans have nearly killed every right whale in existence through our direct and indirect actions over the past two centuries.” Moulton said. “Now we have a choice: we can be the generation that brings the right whale back, or the generation that allows their extinction. Let’s not miss this unique moment. Passing the SAVE Right Whales Act is the first of many steps that Congress should take to help restore the right whale population.”
“The North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction. We must empower scientists, fishermen, and government to work together to find innovative solutions to rebuild this marine mammal species,” Rutherford said. “The loss of the right whale would disrupt the entire ocean ecosystem – upsetting fish stock viability, tourism, and our coastal economies that rely on healthy oceans. I am proud to team up with my congressional colleagues on this important mission.”
“With fewer than 425 right whales remaining, we must do everything we can to save them from extinction,” said Huffman. “This issue is critically important, which is why I’m convening a hearing this week in the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife subcommittee to dig deeper into the many threats facing the right whale and hear from experts on the best path forward. I’m grateful to join Rep. Moulton in introducing his SAVE Right Whales Act, which supports research and new technology development so that we can find solutions to save this iconic species.”
“This bill is an important step in protecting and restoring the population of our right whales. Florida is home to diverse marine wildlife which is critical to maintaining the balance of our delicate ecosystem. It’s something we all depend on,” said Posey.
In addition to the grants, the bill would fund government research to track plankton, the whales’ main source of food. According to Defenders of Wildlife, a 70-ton right whale eats about 2,600 pounds of zooplankton per day during peak feeding season. Researchers want to learn more about how human actions affect zooplankton, which in turn affects the health and migration patterns of the whales.
Today’s bill reintroduction comes in the middle of right whale calving season. Scientists in Florida and Georgia, have spotted seven right whale calves so far this year. This is good news after last year, when no calves were spotted and an estimated 17 adult right whales died. According to Defenders of Wildlife, right whales only give birth every four years, and they are not able to reproduce until age eight. So, a single death among the whales able to reproduce threatens the entire species.
The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing examining threats to the North Atlantic right whales this morning.
In addition to bipartisan support in Congress, the SAVE Right Whales Act has support from scientists, conservationists, and fishermen from across the country.
Dr. Scott Kraus, the Vice President and Senior Science Advisor for the Anderson Cabot Center at the New England Aquarium said: “The SAVE Act is a good step to ensure that fishermen and right whales continue to coexist in the Atlantic Ocean,” he said.
“Our industry has already taken significant steps to reduce whale entanglements, but clearly more can be done and must be done,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “This legislation will provide critical funding that will allow us to continue and expand our efforts to find solutions that will allow fishermen and right whales to coexist.”
Nora Apter, Legislative Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “We are at a pivotal point in the fight to save the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. This bipartisan legislation is critical to support the recovery of this iconic species before it’s too late. Leaders in Congress must take immediate action by taking up and passing the SAVE Right Whales Act on the House floor this year.”
The following organizations have endorsed the SAVE Right Whales Act: