Update 12/23/22: The sad but not surprising conclusion to this story is that the House passed the budget today. Very few news outlets even mentioned this issue. If people had known, If we had had some time to organize a campaign, we might have been able to get this rider out of the budget, because most people love whales. But with only a few hours notice, what could we do? North Atlantic right whales haven’t got much of a chance of surviving. They didn’t before, and now even less.
If you are looking for an array of things you can do to help whales, right whales and all whales, I have a page where I summarize many things we need to do:
What Can I do to Help the Whales?
A rider attached to the omnibus budget bill moving through the U.S. Senate, inserted at the insistence of the Maine delegation, is threatening North Atlantic right whales, again. I was going to write a complete summary of this issue, but the folks at NRDC already did a good job of it, so I am linking to their article instead:
And this one from the Washington Post fills in some of the political details:
With fewer than 400 individuals remaining, and fewer than 100 breeding females, North Atlantic right whales cannot afford to lose even one individual each year to entanglements or ship strikes. It is no exaggeration to say that this budget rider threatens the very existence of North Atlantic right whales.
Here’s another recent article about the toll entanglement takes on right whales:
North Atlantic right whale “Snow Cone” sighted entangled in new fishing gear and in extremely poor health
I have been following and teaching others about NA right whales for more than 20 years. Would the Maine delegation and Congress get away with this if they were threatening the more charismatic humpback whale? I composed a piece of music about a decade ago for guitar and cello that we have occasionally performed called the Right Whale Mother’s Lament. That piece has taken on new urgency.
I recognize that jobs are potentially at stake in Maine, but technology exists to move the Maine lobster industry, and other east coast fisheries, to ropeless gear that would be harmless to right whales. Some money for this has been allocated in the budget, but the six-year moratorium on requiring changes in gear is six years that the right whales simply cannot afford. It’s not a compromise, as Maine Sen. Susan Collins claims. It’s more likely to be a death sentence.
But the budget has not yet passed. It would take only a few Senators to stop this thing. Will they?
Update 12/22/22 2:18 PM: The bill passed the Senate 68-29, which raises the question why the Democrats even needed the votes of the two senators from Maine. I don’t think there is any chance this end-run around the Marine Mammal Protection Act can be removed in the House. Maybe this provision can be challenged in court? Not my area of expertise.