Save America’s Wildlife

Legislation introduced to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale

Rep. Grijalva (AZ) seeks to fix a law that threatens the whale and undermines the Endangered Species Act.

Right whale mother and calf swimming
NOAA | Public Domain
A right whale calf and mother.

In the final weeks of 2022, Congress enacted  a must-pass spending bill that threatens the survival of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

On Monday February 27, Representative Raúl Grijalva (AZ) introduced the RESCUE Whales Act to fix damaging language in that legislation. 

With fewer than 340 of these whales alive and deaths outweighing births, we need to do more. Scientists say the species can tolerate fewer than one death a year, yet we are in the midst of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) calls an ongoing “unusual mortality event.” The leading cause of death and serious injury is fishing gear entanglements. 

The problematic amendment that was thrown into the spending bill paused the need for further protections by undercutting a 2022 court ruling. In so doing, it undermined two bedrock species laws, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. 

To save this massive creature, which can weigh up to 140,000 pounds, we need all parties to get on board the transition to lobster and fishing gear that does not leave vertical ropes in the water. 

The RESCUE Whales Act would help speed the transition. 

Said Rep. Grijalva in a press statement, “The language passed into law in the omnibus poses an existential threat to the dwindling North Atlantic right whale population. It undermines the science-based protections of both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, while also ignoring real solutions like ropeless gear, which we worked hard to secure $20 million in funding for in the omnibus. We must move quickly to pass this [new] bill and put the omnibus funding to use by helping fisheries transition to safer ropeless gear as quickly as possible.”

Virginia Carter

Former Save America's Wildlife Campaign, Associate, Environment America

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