Miranda Cosgrove Joins Science, Business Leaders in Washington to Defend Marine Mammal Protection Act
WASHINGTON – Actress and activist Miranda Cosgrove today joined approximately 50 science and business leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C. to urge members of Congress to defend the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA has provided vital protections for marine mammals like dolphins, whales and seals for 45 years, but now faces attacks from special interests in Congress.
The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering legislation that would make it easier for activities like seismic airgun blasting – an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface – to harm marine mammals. The bill (H.R. 3133) has been included in a larger energy bill (H.R. 4239), an extreme measure that would encourage expanded offshore drilling, while removing commonsense safeguards. The House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 4239 last week, and the House could vote on it in the next few weeks.
“Dolphins and whales need sound to find food, to communicate, to live,” said Cosgrove. “Seismic airgun blasts could silence dolphins and whales, and their songs. Let’s keep dolphins and whales singing, let’s defend the MMPA. We must speak up now, before it’s too late.”
Following meetings with members of Congress and their staff, Cosgrove and others attended a special reception on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the MMPA and its many successes. Among the speakers at the reception was Dr. Lee Talbot, professor at George Mason University and one of the original authors of the MMPA under President Richard Nixon.
“The groundbreaking conservation principles that we built into the MMPA are as important today as ever,” said Talbot. “While some species are rebounding, others remain imperiled, and all marine mammals are at risk as the ocean becomes increasingly industrialized.”
Oceana, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) also released polling results revealing that:
● 76 percent of Americans support protecting marine mammals from threats, including injury and death resulting from offshore oil and gas drilling; and
● 73 percent of Americans support the MMPA.
The national poll, conducted by the nonpartisan companies Beekeeper Group and Lincoln Park Strategies, surveyed 1,000 registered American voters online from May 8-15, 2017.
Below are statements from Oceana, NRDC, IFAW, Defenders of Wildlife, Ocean Conservancy, Animal Welfare Institute, The Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society Legislative Fund and Cetacean Society International regarding the importance of protecting the MMPA.
“The MMPA provides a vital shield for marine mammals against harm caused by industrial activities in the ocean, such as offshore oil and gas exploration,” said Lara Levison, senior director of federal policy at Oceana. “Now oil and gas companies are complaining that rules to protect whales and dolphins are too inconvenient, and they have turned to Congress to gut essential protections for these beautiful and iconic ocean animals. It appears they want to destroy this historic law so they can more easily search and drill for oil and gas for the sake of short-term profits. Congress should reject H.R. 4239 and any other legislation that would allow widespread harm, and possibly even extinction, of marine mammals like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.”
“Americans care deeply about protecting marine mammals from ear-shattering industrial activity like oil and gas explorations,” said Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “The airgun blasts from seismic surveys aren't just noisy, they're deafening and life-threatening to animals that rely on sound to survive. Yet a tone-deaf Congress plans to fast-track these harmful activities by gutting the law that protects marine mammals. People want Congress to protect the MMPA, not Big Oil profits.”
“The MMPA was a bedrock environmental law when it was created 45 years ago and still serves as a global model for marine protection,” said Beth Allgood, U.S. country director at IFAW. “It has been essential in protecting individual whales and conserving entire marine mammal species from unregulated exploitation. It would be tragic if we lost those commonsense protections, especially as threats to marine life, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale, continue to increase at such an unprecedented rate.”
“The MMPA is one of our nation’s flagship wildlife laws, and has helped to protect critically imperiled species like the North Atlantic right whale,” said Jane Davenport, senior attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “Whales, dolphins and other iconic marine mammals urgently need the protections of the Act if they are going to survive and thrive."
“Our nation’s marine mammal protections are under siege in the halls of Congress,” said Jeff Watters, director of government relations at Ocean Conservancy. “These protections are there for a reason. They’ve brought vulnerable populations back from the brink and they must stay in place. All across the country, Americans have made it clear that they want a balanced approach to development and conservation that includes protections for whales, dolphins, manatees and other marine mammals. We simply cannot allow overdevelopment to put our iconic ocean wildlife at risk.”
“Threats to marine mammals have multiplied since the MMPA was passed in 1972, not declined,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “Along with the impacts from increasingly noisy human activities, crises such as bycatch, oil spills, and impacts related to climate change are only worsening in our industrialized world. Now, more than ever, the precautionary approach found in the MMPA is essential to continue to protect numerous marine mammals from a slide toward endangerment and extinction. In celebration of the Act’s anniversary, let’s defend this vital law.”
“The MMPA has been vital in helping marine mammal populations still recovering from whaling and unregulated commercial fisheries,” said Sharon Young, field director of marine wildlife protection at The Humane Society of the United States. “Given the wide range of potentially harmful activities proposed by the offshore oil and gas industry, now is not the time to weaken this landmark legislation. Marine mammals need our continued protection from efforts to destroy their habitat and to introduce lethal levels of industrial ocean noise.”
“The well being of our natural environment is a gift that we give to our children and to the generations that follow,” said David Kaplan, president of Cetacean Society International. “The MMPA is an ingenious piece of the insurance necessary to protect and preserve a most beautiful and invaluable part of the natural world. Without the MMPA, what is already fragile becomes perilously endangered. What would be lost would be lost forever.”
To read IFAW’s new report about MMPA successes, please click here.
To watch the coalition’s video, please visit http://bit.ly/2zIeps5.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.