Animal activists say Senate omnibus bill condemns right whale to extinction | Whales

Animal protectionists are accusing Democrats in the US Senate of selling off the critically endangered northern right whale by including a provision in a year-end funding bill that would allow Maine’s lobster industry will continue to use fishing gear that maims the species, often fatally, until minus 2028.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont inserted an unprecedented right whale policy into the omnibus financing budget released Tuesday effectively condemns the right whale to extinction.

By most estimates the species numbers 340 individuals, including only 70 breeding females, and its population has declined markedly over the past decade. Environmentalists argue that right whale mortality is often due to becoming entangled in the ropes and buoys used to mark lobster traps.

Any delay in forcing the introduction of ropeless traps will almost certainly put the right whale on the path to extinction, the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.

“Schumer and Leahy are die-hard Democrats who ruthlessly put special interests ahead of our nation’s beautiful natural heritage,” said the center’s director of government affairs, Brett Hartl.

“Right whales have migrated along the New York coast for thousands of years, but…Schumer’s action will make this generation the last to witness these remarkable creatures. What a horrible legacy to leave the grandchildren.”

Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesman for the center, Patrick Sullivan, said the decision to legislatively overturn an earlier federal court ruling that delayed implementation of changes to lobster fishing practices by two years meant Democrats had given in to the industry.

“He was apparently able to pressure even Senator Schumer and others to take this really terrible approach to the problem,” Sullivan said. “We have always said that the lobster industry needs support in its transition to whale-friendly approaches, but it cannot be at the cost of right whale extinction, which is what this bill is about.”

Last month, Joe Biden signaled his support for Maine’s $1 billion lobster industry when the president served the crustacean to 200 guests at a White House state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron.

The right whale legislation attached to the year-end omnibus bill mandates additional whale protection measures “using innovative and existing gear technologies, as appropriate” by December 4, 2028, and that a report be submitted on the status of the right whale each year.

Despite some additional funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Fish and Fish. Wildlife Service, the “amounts remain well below what is needed to address the extinction crisis,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to Sullivan, the next few years will be crucial for the right whale. “When you see high levels of mortality and low levels of reproduction, it doesn’t take long for a species to reach a point where recovery becomes very, very difficult, if not impossible,” she said.

Studies show that climate change-induced warming in the Gulf of Maine has resulted in a decline in copepods, the whales’ food source. That has likely contributed to a decline in the number of breeding female whales.

In 2009, 39 calves were born, according to a study. No right whale calves were born in 2018.

Over the past decade, the population is estimated to have declined by about 26% from around 500. Fatalities have been attributed to ship strikes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and, increasingly, to entanglements in fishing gear. lobster fishing.

“There are very few whales and a lot of gear in the water,” said the we are all whalers author Michael Moore – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute – he told The Guardian earlier this month. “We are failing to prevent a lethal entanglement or an entanglement that is detrimental to your health. For whales to reproduce and their numbers to recover, they have to be fit, fat and healthy.”

“They are really susceptible, much more so than other whales,” said the Leviathan author Philip Hoare “And it’s pretty sad and kind of crazy that this is happening off the coast of the richest democracy on Earth.”

With politicians resisting swift implementation of measures to save the whale, it may be up to consumers to take action. In November, the Whole Foods chain removed lobster from its stores after California-based Seafood Watch added US and Canadian lobster fisheries to their “red list”, which means that they are considered to be at high risk of harming the environment.

Earlier this month, the non-profit Marine Stewardship Council’s suspension of certification of the Maine lobster industry went into effect. The council called whale entanglement a “serious and tragic situation”.

Sullivan, the spokesman for the center for biological diversity, said the right whale species could still be saved through immediate action to protect it from entanglement.

“The window is very narrow and this legislation closes it,” he said. “It really puts the right whale on a very bad trajectory and we are very concerned about where things will go from here.”

“A four-year delay is devastating not only because of the whales that could have been saved, but because of the inevitable delays between agreeing on a policy and implementing it, resulting in even more avoidable losses,” said the director of animal legal education. at George Washington University, Kathy Hessler.

“It is time to do what we can to stop harming the whales, as well as other aquatic animals and the ecosystem. We have options that we are not using that would protect the whales and allow the industry to continue. There is no excuse not to try them.”

This article was modified on December 21, 2022. Patrick Leahy is a senator from Vermont, not Maine, as an earlier version stated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *