Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) introduced bipartisan legislation along with Representatives Stephanie Murphy, (FL-7), and Brian Mast (FL-18) to protect marine mammals like orca, dolphins, seals, and whales.
H.R.2848, the Marine Mammal Research and Response Act increases funding for two initiatives—the Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program and the Unusual Mortality Event fund—that the federal government uses to support efforts by local governments and non-profit organizations to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals and to determine what is causing the mammals to experience problems.In the Senate, the Marine Mammal Research and Response Act was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. This bill is the latest effort by Strickland to better restore, conserve, and protect the Puget Sound and its wildlife. (Please find the bill text at this link.)
“Here in the South Sound, we have a deep appreciation for the natural beauty and diverse wildlife of our state – including the orcas, gray whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and otters that have made the Puget Sound their home. Without protection, endangered mammals such as our iconic orca pods and other threatened species will continue to be in harm’s way. I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Marine Mammal Research and Response Act to boost federal support for the rescue and rehabilitation of injured marine mammals, and strengthen research on how to better protect these majestic animals before it’s too late,” said Strickland.
“Orcas, whales and other marine mammals are iconic symbols in the Pacific Northwest. Reauthorizing the Prescott Grant Program and increasing information sharing and collaboration between government, nonprofit, and research institutions is critical ensuring recovery of marine mammal populations,” said Senator Cantwell.
“Floridians take great pride in our state’s diverse wildlife, like manatees, dolphins, and other marine mammals. As we see from surging manatee deaths in Florida, these creatures need our help,” said Murphy. “I’m proud to join Representatives Strickland and Mast in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will bolster federal support for efforts to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals that are in distress, and to improve emergency response and scientific research so we can act before it’s too late.”
“Decades of special-interest driven policy making, including unfettered pollution and toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee, have destroyed the ecology of our waterways and repeatedly turned the Indian River Lagoon into an algae-infested toxic waterway that kills manatees. Sadly, these animals are also the so-called ‘canary in the coal mine’ for a massive public health crisis in our state that must be stopped ASAP,” said Mast. “This bipartisan legislation will provide federal support for efforts to rescue and rehabilitate these mammals, while also strengthening efforts to stop this destruction before it’s too late.”
The Prescott Grant Program is integral to organizations dedicated to protecting and restoring the health of marine mammals. Last year, the program distributed nearly $4 million, $500,000 of which went to organizations in Washington state. It is also the primary funding source for organizations that rescue and rehabilitate sick or injured marine mammals, including the highly publicized rescue of Springer, a member of the Northern Resident Killer Whale pod, in 2002.
In addition to improving the Prescott Grant Program and the Unusual Mortality Event fund, the bill would create the “Joseph R. Geraci Marine Mammal Rescue and Rapid Response Fund,” named after a late scientist and veterinarian who was a leading expert in marine mammal medicine and aquatic wildlife conservation. This program would ensure that local governments and non-profit organizations can quickly access funding to treat marine mammals with emergency health conditions.
The bill also creates a “Marine Mammal Health Monitoring and Analysis Platform” to collect and report more data regarding marine mammal deaths, and directs the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study marine mammal mortality events.