Correcting Course on Right Whales

In February, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced the RESCUE Whales Act (HR 1213). This bill would repeal harmful language included in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus funding package that significantly threatens the survival and recovery of the North Atlantic right whale—of which fewer than 340 remain. Studies show that, since 2011, the American lobster and Jonah crab fisheries have been responsible for a 30 percent decline in the North Atlantic right whale population. In September 2021, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published a rule to reduce lethal entanglements in fishing gear; however, a federal court ultimately determined the rule was insufficient under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and ordered NMFS to promulgate a new rule by December 9, 2024. In December 2022, language was added to the fiscal year 2023 omnibus at the last minute, overriding the judge’s ruling and keeping a woefully insufficient September 2021 rule in effect until 2028. Conservationists and lawmakers say that such a delay undermines both the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act and will inevitably accelerate the extinction of the North Atlantic right whale. 

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