House Unites for Right Whale Conservation

The SAVE Right Whales Act will provide critical funding to protect our North Atlantic right whales, including this mom and calf - the third of seven calves sighted so far this season

Credit: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

We humans have nearly killed every right whale in existence through our direct and indirect actions over the past two centuries,” Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA-6) said during the bipartisan reintroduction of the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (or “SAVE”) Right Whales Act (H.R. 1568), "Now we have a choice: we can be the generation that brings them back, or the generation that allows their extinction.” 

Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL-4), who reintroduced the bill alongside Rep. Moulton, added “We must empower scientists, fishermen, and government to work together to find innovative solutions to rebuild this marine mammal species...I am proud to team up with my congressional colleagues on this important mission.”

The reintroduction of the bill, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Bill Keating (D-MA-9), Jared Huffman (D-CA-2), and Bill Posey (R-FL-8), represents a strong bipartisan signal that the protection of the North Atlantic right whale is of paramount concern for all Americans. NRDC has endorsed the bill.

If the Act becomes law, it would 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 annually from 2019-2029 in new funding to develop, test, and implement innovative technologies and other strategies to reduce the two main causes of North Atlantic right whale deaths: entanglement with fishing gear and vessel collisions. For example, the Act could provide critically needed funding for projects intended to develop, test, or use innovative ropeless fishing systems that virtually eliminate all risk of entanglement.

Since its initial introduction last year, NRDC has been active on the Hill and has spearheaded a coalition of NGOs working to garner bipartisan support for the bill.

The reintroduction of the SAVE Right Whales Act could not come at a more critical time for the North Atlantic right whale. While the seven new calves spotted so far this year offer an emblem of hope, at least twenty animals have been lost over the past two years. No more than 420 animals remain alive and, at the current rate of decline, we may still lose these treasured whales within our lifetime.

Government leadership will be critical in ensuring that strong, adequately funded conservation measures are taken to save the North Atlantic right whale. And Congress is stepping up: on Thursday the House of Natural Resources Water, Oceans and Wildlife (or “WOW”) Subcommittee will also hold a hearing examining threats to the North Atlantic right whale. The purpose of the hearing is to discuss all the different threats facing right whales, including entanglement, vessel collisions, and seismic surveys.

We are at a pivotal point in the fight to save the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. The bipartisan SAVE Right Whales Act is much-needed legislation to support the recovery of this iconic species before it’s too late.

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

You can find your Congressional representative’s contact information here.

About the Authors

Francine Kershaw

Project Scientist, Marine Mammals, Oceans Division, Nature Program

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