Protecting Ocean Ecosystems

Dear Mr. President

Two right whales swimming in the waters off Provincetown, MA. Photo credit: Peter Flood.

As we ponder last week’s tragic news about the declining status of North Atlantic right whales, we are heartened by this letter written by Regina Asmutis-Silvia, the Executive Director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, to the next President of the United States.  Her positive messaging describes the many ways that the President can protect marine mammals for their own benefit, for the ecosystem benefits they provide to us all, and for the fishermen and women whose livelihoods depend upon a healthy marine environment. The original blog can be found here.

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you on behalf of the marine mammals who call our coasts home and are some of the United States’ most precious resources. They don’t have a side of the aisle or an agenda. They simply want to do their jobs as ecosystem engineers, raise their families in a safe and quiet home, have enough food to eat, travel safely, and socialize with friends.

Marine mammals are an important part of our economy, our recreation, our lives, and our planetResearch shows that marine mammals play a vital role in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and our planet’s climate. They are also an important economic driver, supporting thousands of jobs and bringing billions of dollars into coastal economies through tourism, education, and viewing.

The conservation of marine mammals is important to the majority of the American people and their protection is inextricably linked to our own survival. Knowing that, I ask that you prioritize marine mammal conservation during your tenure as President. Listed below are just some of the actions that can help protect the future of these amazing species.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but an incredibly important one to ensure the future of these amazing species. To the current and future leaders of our country, we ask that you recognize the value of marine mammals and healthy oceans to our planet, our communities, and our country. May the decisions you make lead to a healthier world for us all.

In sincerity,

Regina A. Asmutis-Silvia

Executive Director, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

During your presidency, I ask that you:

  • Maintain the integrity of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act: These landmark laws protect marine mammals and their homes. Amending either of these Acts should be done only to make them stronger and more protective.
  • Fund essential programs that support marine mammal protection and recovery: The US Marine Mammal Commission is the only US agency that provides unbiased oversight on the science, policies, and management of marine mammals. The John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant supports organizations who respond to marine mammals in distress. Without these programs, we would know much less about these animals and have little oversight on how our actions affect them.
  • Diversify your cabinet and appointments. Protecting the environment and advancing social justice are not mutually exclusive. The role of marine mammals in the marine ecosystem is important to the health of our ocean and our climate. However, as both environmental impacts and climate change disproportionately impact communities of color, we must also ensure that marine science and environmental policy is representative of all communities, especially those who are most impacted by marine-based research and policy decisions.
  • Sign the SAVE Right Whales Act. This Act would provide 10 years of funding to help fishers and shippers safely share the ocean with critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which only 350 individuals remain.  The decisions you make over the next four years could save a species.
  • Expand protections under the Ship Strike Speed Rule on the east coast and create speed zones in other US waters to reduce the risk of vessel strikes. Vessel strikes are a huge risk to endangered and protected large whales as well as risk human injury and lives when collisions occur. We can address this with a data-based review of the location of shipping lanes, creating seasonal speed zones, and making protected areas for whales.
  • Make fishing without vertical buoy line legal, enforceable, safe, and affordable. The accidental entanglement of marine mammals in fishing gear injures and kills hundreds of thousands of marine mammals and economically impacts fishers through lost gear and closed fishing areas. Investing in new fisheries technologies, and ensuring their operation is legal, enforceable, safe and affordable, can save marine mammals and the jobs of countless fishers.
  • Protect and restore watersheds in the U.S: Remember what we learned from “Finding Nemo” – all drains lead to the ocean!  From restoring critical sources of food, like salmon for endangered Southern Resident orcas, to providing clean water that impacts the health of people andmarine mammals, supporting these interconnected ecosystems is vital to protecting marine mammals and their homes.

When you save the whales, you can save the world.

 


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