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credit: Florida FWC
Florida FWC, taken under NOAA permit #15488

Washington (February 16, 2022) - Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) today introduced the “Right Whale Coexistence Act,” formerly known as the SAVE right whales act. This important legislation aims to support the recovery of the North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered species, by providing funding to help reduce the primary causes of right whale deaths: entanglement and vessel collisions.

The bill comes at a pivotal point in the fight to save the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. Right whales have been experiencing a precipitous decline since 2010 and fewer than 340 whales now remain. Fifty whales, including three calves, are known to have been killed or seriously injured since 2017, and the true number of deaths may be three times higher. Without immediate and concerted conservation action to address entanglement and vessel strikes, this iconic species could be effectively extinct within decades.

If the Right Whale Coexistence Act becomes law, it would establish a new grant program representing $15 million annually from 2022-2032 in new funding to develop, test, and implement innovative technologies and other strategies that have the greatest likelihood of reducing the risk of entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes.

State and tribal agencies, research institutions, nonprofit organizations, vessel owners and operators, members of maritime industries like fishing, shipping, and boating, and any other entity with the required expertise for right whale conservation, may apply for grants. The bill also prioritizes projects that involve private sector stakeholders and that will provide economic benefits to small businesses in the United States. It also requires periodic reports to Congress on the results and effectiveness of the program.

"North Atlantic right whales are not only part of the fabric of American history, they are an integral part of our future" - Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Executive Director of WDC

North Atlantic right whale lifts its fluke out of the water.

A coalition of environmental and animal protection organizations reacted to the bill introduction:

“North Atlantic right whales are not only part of the fabric of American history, they are an integral part of our future as they play a role in mitigating climate change and sustaining fish stocks.  This bill can help us find solutions to safely preserve both ecologically important whales and economically vibrant fisheries.” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

“The North Atlantic right whale needs our help now more than ever,” said Francine Kershaw, Senior Scientist at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council“The sooner Congress can move this legislation, the better our chance of ensuring right whales survive and rebound for future generations.”

“This legislation comes not a moment too soon,” said Erica Fuller, Senior Attorney at Conservation Law Foundation. “After a couple of years of trials, we know that innovative solutions to protect critically endangered right whales exist, thanks to the input provided by fishermen, scientists and engineers. The Right Whale Coexistence Act offers much needed funding for these new technologies so that whales and industry can safely share the ocean, and we’ll be working hard to get it passed.”

According to IFAW Marine Campaign Manager Kathleen Collins, “the introduction of the Right Whale Coexistence Act of 2022 is a critical step to addressing the crisis facing this critically endangered species whose numbers hover perilously at fewer than 340 individuals. Driven to near extinction by human-driven threats including entanglements in commercial fishing gear and vessel collisions, the Act will promote innovation through sustainable long-term solutions that can remove the North Atlantic right whale from the path of extinction and place it onto a path towards recovery.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Senator Booker, Representative Moulton and all co-sponsors for this bold initiative to combat the right whale’s dire predicament,” said Jane Davenport, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “Human activities have killed over 200 right whales in the past twelve years alone. This new bill represents a major opportunity for the government to slow—and actually reverse—the species’ rapid decline towards extinction.”

"Immediate action is needed to bring critically endangered North Atlantic right whales back from the brink of extinction," says Oceana campaign director Whitney Webber. "The Right Whale Coexistence Act of 2022 would provide needed investments in North Atlantic right whale research, but it must be paired with updated rules that require vessels to slow down when whales are present and reduce the amount of ropes and lines in the water. When we address their top threats of vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement, we can successfully recover this species."

“The fate of North Atlantic right whales rests in our hands” said Animal Welfare Institute President Cathy Liss. “The Right Whale Coexistence Act takes a pivotal step forward by prioritizing and investing in innovative solutions to reduce human impacts on this cherished species. With the population at its lowest number in more than 20 years, we must act now before it is too late. We are grateful for Senator Booker and Congressman Moulton’s steadfast leadership and hope Congress moves quickly to pass this crucial legislation.”

“The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most critically endangered species on Earth, and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure they survive,” said Steve Mashuda, Managing Attorney of the Oceans program at Earthjustice. “We applaud Senator Booker’s and Rep. Moulton’s efforts to harness the power of government, science, and industry to protect these whales and secure their recovery.”

“The SeaWorld Conservation Fund is honored to support the Right Whale Coexistence Act of 2022 and with fewer than 340 animals remaining, we are quickly running out of time to save this species from extinction,” said Dr. Chris Dold, President of the SeaWorld Conservation Fund and Chief Zoological Officer of SeaWorld. “We are proud of our efforts to support the development of fishing gear that is safe for North Atlantic right whales and we are honored to continue to fight for the survival of this important species.”

“The North Atlantic right whale is in peril. Fewer than 340 individuals are still alive, the shameful legacy of centuries of human-caused mortality,” said Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “If this magnificent species goes extinct on our watch, it will be because we failed to act. That’s why I wholeheartedly thank Representative Moulton and Senator Booker for championing the Right Whale Coexistence Act. There’s no time to lose—Congress must pass this legislation!”

According to Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA, “We are grateful for Senator Booker and Representative Moulton for introducing this important legislation. We have been sounding the alarm on this critically endangered species for years, and the situation is now more dire than ever before. North Atlantic right whales hover precariously on the edge of extinction, with fewer than 340 individuals remaining. Urgent, innovative action is needed to pull this iconic, keystone species back from the brink. The Right Whale Coexistence Act provides the necessary path forward for funding such solutions. We urge Congress to swiftly take up and pass this vital bill.”

Want to help? Send a quick email to your senators and ask them to co-sponsor the Right Whale Coexistence Act!

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