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Marine Mammals Entangled In Congressional Nets

Something strange is happening to the right whales of the North Atlantic. Numbering at only about 300, these slow-to-breed whales are at such a low point in their population that the loss of a single pregnant female could lead to their extinction. So, it’s particularly bad news that an unusually large number of North Atlantic right whales are becoming dangerously entangled in snags of human manufacture.

I wrote at the end of December about the entanglement of a right whale in a snarl of rope off the coast of Florida. It turns out that since then, four other right whales have been found tangled in ropes as well. The ropes appear to have originally come from lobster gathering operations far to the north.

Human harvesting of seafood from the oceans clearly poses a threat to these endangered marine mammals. What can be done? From one member of Congress, the answer has been: Stop trying to help. Don Young, the only member of the House of Representatives from Alaska, has introduced H.R. 843, legislation that would end efforts to try to eliminate the killing of marine mammals by the commercial seafood industry.

Politicians like Don Young aren’t going to do much to make things better. That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. You can start out yourself by becoming informed, following the quarterly news updates from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (another quarterly Right Whale News is available from the Georgia Environmental Policy Institute). You can also adopt a right whale in order to help fund right whale research and conservation efforts in the Canadian part of the whales’ range.

north atlantic right whale

1 comment to Marine Mammals Entangled In Congressional Nets

  • Mark

    Here in SC a group of school children at Alice Drive Elementary School in Sumter submitted a bill to the state legislature to make the Right Whale the State marine mammal. Soon thereafter, the State Ports Authority (SPA) asked state Senator Chip Campsen to submit a competing bill to name the bottlenosed dolphin as the state marine mammal. The SPA is chafing under the new federal regulation that requires container ships to slow down when approaching the coast in order to prevent collisions with migratory Right Whales. Another State Senator, Paul Campbell, who has cosponsored the bottlenose dolphin bill, has described the Right Whale as “known to be aggressive to humans”, and claims that they are rarely seen off of our coast. The Right Whales winter off of the SC, GA, and FL coasts. This year survey flights offshore counted 24 in SC waters, that’s about 8% of the total North Atlantic population.

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