WASHINGTON -- In an important move for the Atlantic’s most endangered marine mammals, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Seth Moulton announced the introduction of the Right Whale Coexistence Act Wednesday. The measure would establish a grant program to advance conservation efforts for the North Atlantic right whale, providing $15 million annually over 10 years to protect the species. Part of the money can be used to fund the development and testing of right whale-safe ropeless fishing technology.
The North Atlantic right whale population has declined in recent years and now numbers approximately 336 whales. Entanglement in vertical line fishing gear, along with boat strikes, are the leading cause of injuries and deaths for these whales. Primarily used in lobster and crab fishing, vertical line fishing gear uses a fixed, vertical rope that extends from the ocean floor to the ocean surface. An estimated 80% of right whales bear scars from fishing gear entanglements.
Environment America Oceans Associate Kate Griese issued the following statement:
“Right now, North Atlantic right whales are fighting a losing battle against fishing gear and boat strikes. With only 336 of the whales left in our oceans, we must act now to save these critically endangered giants of the sea, which far too often find themselves entangled in fishing gear.
“The Right Whale Coexistence Act is a key step toward bringing the whales back from the very brink of extinction. Funding in the bill can help the fishing industry adopt the use of right whale-safe fishing gear to help breathe new life into this endangered species.
“A whale-sized thank you to Sen. Booker and Rep. Moulton for introducing this species-saving bill. Congress needs to act swiftly to pass it.”