Fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remaining in world
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) unveiled legislation today aimed at protecting the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The move coincides with World Oceans Day, which is observed internationally on June 8.
The SAVE Right Whales Act of 2018 (S. 3038) establishes a new grant program to fund collaborative projects between states, nongovernmental organizations and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce the impacts of human activities on North Atlantic right whales.
There are fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remaining in the world, with a population that has struggled to recover from overexploitation by the whaling industry.
“Right whales rely on Florida waters for their crucial breeding grounds, but we’re not seeing any new calves,” said Nelson, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees oceans policy. “This is a troubling development that requires quick action to find ways to protect the remaining whales and bring the population back to healthy levels.”
Despite protection from whaling since the 1930s, North Atlantic right whales are still vulnerable to ship collisions and entanglements with fishing gear, the two leading causes of injury and death to the whales today. The U.S. fishing and shipping industries have taken major steps to address these conflicts, and there are opportunities to develop improved solutions across both industries to tackle the ongoing challenge of protecting the whales. The past year was one of the worst years on record for the species, with 18 confirmed deaths between 2017 and 2018 and no new calves observed this year – the first time no calves were observed since surveys began nearly 30 years ago.
Nelson joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) as sponsors of the legislation. A pdf of the legislation can be found here.
The following groups have endorsed the SAVE Right Whales Act:
- Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Conservation Law Foundation
- Defenders of Wildlife
- Humane Society of the United States
- Humane Society Legislative Fund
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- New England Aquarium