Bill being considered in Congress harms marine mammal protection

December 13 2017

We're urging supporters to contact their representatives to maintain the Marine Mammal Protection Act in its current form

By Elizabeth Hogan, Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) has made the United States a global leader in the protection of iconic ocean wildlife since 1972, when it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.  Because of the MMPA, it is illegal to hunt or harass whales, dolphins, seals, manatees, sea lions, walruses, sea otters, and polar bears.  And because of the MMPA, marine mammal species that were facing extinction have grown to healthier population levels.  Not one marine mammal species found in U.S. waters has gone extinct in the 45 years since the MMPA became law, even as human activities in the ocean have dramatically increased.

Unfortunately, a bill currently being considered in Congress - H.R. 3133, included in what is known as the SECURE American Energy Act, H.R. 4239 - would significantly undermine the MMPA.  Specifically, H.R. 3133 will eliminate the scientific review process before industrial users of the ocean, such as oil and gas companies, are issued permits to harass marine mammals.  The bill would also remove standards in the law to limit harm to “small numbers” of marine mammals. In addition, it would require automatic approval of permits to harm marine mammals if government scientists have not finished their reviews in a fast-tracked process.

Harassment from industrial activities can compromise animals’ vital natural behaviors, like foraging, breeding, and nursing. Marine mammals depend on these activities to survive and reproduce. The MMPA ensures that the impacts of these activities are properly regulated and minimized. To weaken these core provisions for oil and gas exploration and other activities, as H.R. 3133 intends, would subject America’s marine mammals to needless harm and make it far more likely that their populations will become threatened or endangered in the future.

We urge anyone who values whales, dolphins, polar bears, and all ocean wildlife to contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to maintain the Marine Mammal Protection Act in its current form, by opposing H.R. 3133 and any other bills or amendments that would weaken this essential ocean protection law.

Top image courtesey of Claire Bass