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Protect the law that Protects Marine Mammals
At the Surface:
What is the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)? One of the United States’ landmark conservation laws! Since 1972, the MMPA has protected and helped recover marine mammals, and not a single marine mammal species has gone extinct in U.S. waters since it was enacted.
- Was the first law to consider an ecosystem approach to conservation, recognizing that habitats were vital to the survival of the life living in them.
- Protects marine mammals while resolving conflicts with human use of the oceans.
- Requires action to rebuild at-risk groups or populations.
- Created the Marine Mammal Commission, an independent government agency that oversees the conservation and protection of marine mammals.
Without the MMPA, whale and dolphin populations in U.S. waters would undoubtedly be in much worse shape than they are now. Some, like North Atlantic right whales and Southern Resident orcas, are still just hanging on by a thread. They need all the help they can get.
That’s why we must protect the MMPA from any action that would weaken or undermine this important law. Sadly, the MMPA is now facing an unprecedented number of attacks, and the current administration is trying everything in its power to roll back the protections of the MMPA.
You can follow the full onslaught against environmental protections here (warning, it’s a little terrifying), but here are some of the worst threats to the MMPA:
H.R. 3133: the “SEA” Act.
Don’t let the name fool you. The “Streamlining Environmental Approvals” Act guts core provisions of the MMPA to fast-track seismic airgun surveys and other activities.
- How it affects whales and dolphins: seismic airgun surveys involve repeated blasts of incredibly loud sounds, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks a time. They can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in whales and dolphins, displacement from preferred habitat, disrupt foraging and socialization, and even cause stranding or death.
- What the bill does: allows harm to huge numbers of whales and dolphins, permits activities with no effort to reduce harm, limits monitoring for cumulative and long-term impacts, and creates a dangerous loophole in Endangered Species Act protections.
- Status: Expecting a vote in the House of Representatives soon.
You probably saw the news stories, heard about the protests, or maybe even attended a rally yourself. When news broke of the Administration’s proposal to open ALL of our coastlines to offshore drilling, people were pretty upset.
- How it affects whales and dolphins: drilling increases the risk of oil spills, which can directly harm and kill marine life and cause irreversible damage to ocean and coastal ecosystems.
- The Executive Order: In response to an April 2017 Executive Order, in January 2018 the Interior Department announced a plan to allow drilling in nearly all U.S. waters – the largest expansion of offshore oil and gas leasing ever proposed.
- Status: Public comment period closed on March 9th; next opportunity to weigh in will be on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
U.S. Navy National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act conference report includes a rider that weakens provisions in the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, but not to the extent the original rider had proposed.
This NDAA will extend the time between the Navy's required environmental reviews to analyze the harm caused to marine mammals while conducting training and readiness activities. Currently, these reviews must occur every five years; the change extends the time to seven years. The original proposal would have extended the review period to ten years. The majority of harm posed by Naval exercises to marine mammals is related to sonar and underwater explosives, both of which have been known to harass, injure, and/or kill a variety of marine species.
- How it affects whales and dolphins: The Navy does a lot of dangerous things in its training and testing activities, including sonar use and explosives, that can directly harm or kill marine mammals, drive them out of preferred habitat, interrupt foraging and socializing, harm prey, and degrade habitat.
- What the bill does: undermines marine mammal conservation, eliminates review, removes accountability, and reduces crucial conservation monitoring and research. Currently, they have to re-assess the impacts of these actions on marine mammals every 5 years. This review period is especially important for small and vulnerable populations whose circumstances can change quickly, like the Southern Resident orcas.
Status: The conference committee report (where the House and Senate versions of the NDAA are reconciled) includes a change to a 7-year review period for the Navy's actions under the MMPA.
So what do all these proposals have in common? The Administration and Congress are proposing to increase dangerous and risky human use of our oceans and their resources while at the same time decreasing environmental protection and safety measures. This is bad news for whales and dolphins, their homes, and ultimately for us.
WDC is actively engaged in fighting these attacks in Congress and in local areas that would be impacted, but we can’t win this fight without your help. We need your voice to speak up for whales and dolphins and the vital laws that protect them.
WITH 10 MINUTES:
The most effective action you can take is to send a letter or postcard to your Senators and Representatives
1. You can find everything you need to know about your elected officials at the House and Senate websites.
2. Personal stories matter – tell them why you love marine mammals and ask them to uphold the MMPA and protect it from attacks.
3. Even if it’s just a postcard with a simple ask, your voice makes a difference to those that are there to represent YOU. Be a voice for whales and dolphins!
WITH 5 MINUTES:
Don’t have time (or stamps) to write a letter? Give them a call! Use the links above to find their contact information, and call directly. OR…
- Download the app Stance
- Follow the instructions, hold down the pink button on the app, and leave them a message. The app does 95% of the work, all you have to do is talk!
WITH 1 MINUTE:
- Find a petition and sign it. The best ones are from our partners in the MMPA Defense Coalition – check out petitions from Oceana on the SEA Act and Defenders of Wildlife on the NDAA.
- Join WDC as a Flippin’ Awesome Member! Fight alongside us to protect the laws that protect marine mammals, and make a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.