Congress Acts to Save Right Whales

Bipartisan legislation is an important step, but only one piece of the solution to save this iconic species

right whales

Bipartisan legislation introduced by Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton and Florida Congressman John Rutherford could help reduce deadly ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements for endangered North Atlantic right whales. Photo: Brian Skerry

With no more than 420 North Atlantic right whales remaining in the world, New England’s iconic whale is on the brink of extinction. Thankfully, Congress is taking action. This month, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and John Rutherford (R-FL) led the bipartisan reintroduction of the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (or “SAVE”) Right Whales Act.

This legislation could not come at a more critical time for the North Atlantic right whale. At least 20 animals have been killed over the past two years – all by human activities, including entanglement in lobster fishing gear and ship strikes.

And, while the seven calves spotted so far this year give us reason to hope, at the current rate of decline, we may still lose these whales to extinction within our lifetime.

New Law Could Fund Innovative Technologies to Reduce Gear Entanglements

The SAVE Right Whales Act will establish a new grant program to fund projects between states, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce the impacts of human activities on right whales.

Specifically, it would authorize $5 million in new funding annually from 2019 to 2029 to develop, test, and implement innovative technologies and other strategies to reduce the two leading causes of North Atlantic right whale deaths: entanglement with fishing gear and ship collisions. Efforts to advance ropeless fishing systems, which practically eliminate all risk of entanglement, could receive critically needed funding as a result.

The SAVE Right Whales Act is An Important Step, but More Action is Needed

Federal leadership is critical in ensuring that strong, adequately funded conservation measures are taken to save the North Atlantic right whale. The SAVE Right Whales Act is an important step, but we also need the government agencies charged with safeguarding right whales to commit to carrying out solutions that already exist. These include increased aerial surveys so that fishing gear can be removed temporarily when right whales are spotted, improved gear markings and reporting so that managers can immediately identify problematic gear, mandatory speed restrictions to prevent ship strikes, and the use of ropeless or buoyless gear to reduce entanglements.

You Can Help

You can help take action by calling on your representatives to take up and pass the SAVE Right Whales Act. If your representative is already leading on this issue, you can show your appreciation by sending a quick note of thanks.

Extinction is forever – and we will not let the magnificent North Atlantic right whale disappear from New England’s ocean waters on our watch. Every right whale calf born this year is a reason for hope and celebration – now it’s up to all of us give them an ocean where they can grow and thrive.


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