Key Environmental Law Faces Attacks from Special Interests in Congress after Providing Vital Protections for Marine Mammals for 45 Years
Washington, DC—Actress and activist Miranda Cosgrove late yesterday joined approximately 50 science and business leaders from across the country in Washington, DC to urge members of Congress to defend the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA has provided vital protections for marine mammals like dolphins, whales and seals for 45 years, but now faces attacks from special interests in Congress.
The US House of Representatives is currently considering legislation that would make it easier for activities like seismic airgun blasting – an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface – to harm marine mammals. The bill (H.R. 3133) has been included in a larger energy bill (H.R. 4239), an extreme measure that would encourage expanded offshore drilling, while removing commonsense safeguards. The House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 4239 last week, and the House could vote on it in the next few weeks.
“Dolphins and whales need sound to find food, to communicate, to live,” said Cosgrove. “Seismic airgun blasts could silence dolphins and whales, and their songs. Let’s keep dolphins and whales singing, let’s defend the MMPA. We must speak up now, before it’s too late.”
Following meetings with members of Congress and their staff, Cosgrove and others attended a special reception on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the MMPA and its many successes. Among the speakers at the reception was Dr. Lee Talbot, professor at George Mason University and one of the original authors of the MMPA under President Richard Nixon.
“The groundbreaking conservation principles that we built into the MMPA are as important today as ever,” said Talbot. “While some species are rebounding, others remain imperiled, and all marine mammals are at risk as the ocean becomes increasingly industrialized.”
Oceana, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) also released polling results revealing that:
- 76 percent of Americans support protecting marine mammals from threats, including injury and death resulting from offshore oil and gas drilling; and
- 73 percent of Americans support the MMPA.
The national poll, conducted by the nonpartisan companies Beekeeper Group and Lincoln Park Strategies, surveyed 1,000 registered American voters online from May 8-15, 2017. /p>
Below are statements from the Animal Welfare Institute, Oceana, NRDC, IFAW, Defenders of Wildlife, Ocean Conservancy, The Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society Legislative Fund and Cetacean Society International regarding the importance of protecting the MMPA:
- “Threats to marine mammals have multiplied since the MMPA was passed in 1972, not declined,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “Along with the impacts from increasingly noisy human activities, crises such as bycatch, oil spills, and impacts related to climate change are only worsening in our industrialized world. Now, more than ever, the precautionary approach found in the MMPA is essential to continue to protect numerous marine mammals from a slide toward endangerment and extinction. In celebration of the Act’s anniversary, let’s defend this vital law.”
- “The MMPA provides a vital shield for marine mammals against harm caused by industrial activities in the ocean, such as offshore oil and gas exploration,” said Lara Levison, senior director of federal policy at Oceana. “Now oil and gas companies are complaining that rules to protect whales and dolphins are too inconvenient, and they have turned to Congress to gut essential protections for these beautiful and iconic ocean animals. It appears they want to destroy this historic law so they can more easily search and drill for oil and gas for the sake of short-term profits. Congress should reject H.R. 4239 and any other legislation that would allow widespread harm, and possibly even extinction, of marine mammals like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.”
- “Americans care deeply about protecting marine mammals from ear-shattering industrial activity like oil and gas explorations,” said Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “The airgun blasts from seismic surveys aren't just noisy, they're deafening and life-threatening to animals that rely on sound to survive. Yet a tone-deaf Congress plans to fast-track these harmful activities by gutting the law that protects marine mammals. People want Congress to protect the MMPA, not Big Oil profits.”
- “The MMPA was a bedrock environmental law when it was created 45 years ago and still serves as a global model for marine protection,” said Beth Allgood, U.S. country director at IFAW. “It has been essential in protecting individual whales and conserving entire marine mammal species from unregulated exploitation. It would be tragic if we lost those commonsense protections, especially as threats to marine life, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale, continue to increase at such an unprecedented rate.”
- “The MMPA is one of our nation’s flagship wildlife laws, and has helped to protect critically imperiled species like the North Atlantic right whale,” said Jane Davenport, senior attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “Whales, dolphins and other iconic marine mammals urgently need the protections of the Act if they are going to survive and thrive."
- “Our nation’s marine mammal protections are under siege in the halls of Congress,” said Jeff Watters, director of government relations at Ocean Conservancy. “These protections are there for a reason. They’ve brought vulnerable populations back from the brink and they must stay in place. All across the country, Americans have made it clear that they want a balanced approach to development and conservation that includes protections for whales, dolphins, manatees and other marine mammals. We simply cannot allow overdevelopment to put our iconic ocean wildlife at risk.”
- “The MMPA has been vital in helping marine mammal populations still recovering from whaling and unregulated commercial fisheries,” said Sharon Young, field director of marine wildlife protection at The Humane Society of the United States. “Given the wide range of potentially harmful activities proposed by the offshore oil and gas industry, now is not the time to weaken this landmark legislation. Marine mammals need our continued protection from efforts to destroy their habitat and to introduce lethal levels of industrial ocean noise.”
- “The well being of our natural environment is a gift that we give to our children and to the generations that follow,” said David Kaplan, president of Cetacean Society International. “The MMPA is an ingenious piece of the insurance necessary to protect and preserve a most beautiful and invaluable part of the natural world. Without the MMPA, what is already fragile becomes perilously endangered. What would be lost would be lost forever.”
To take action and urge your legislators to protect this key legislation, visit AWI's Compassion Index.
To read IFAW’s new report about MMPA successes, please click here.
To watch the coalition’s video, please click here.
Amey Owen, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With nearly 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. To learn more about Oceana’s work in the United States, please visit www.usa.oceana.org.
About the Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare
Founded in 1969, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
About Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.
About Ocean Conservancy
Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
About the Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States is the most effective animal protection organization, as rated by our peers. For more than 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We and our affiliates are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 150,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read about our more than 60 years of transformational change for animals and people. HumaneSociety.org
About The Humane Society Legislative Fund
The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.
About Cetacean Society International
Cetacean Society International (CSI) (www.csiwhalesalive.org) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, dedicated to conserving whales, dolphins, porpoises and their environment. CSI was founded in 1974 with a purpose and a mission that stands true today: “to stop the killing, capture and display of cetaceans”. CSI strives to encourage human activities that enhance public awareness and stewardship of cetaceans and the marine environment.