February 16, 2022

Moulton Introduces Right Whale Coexistence Act to Save North Atlantic Right Whales from Brink of Extinction

Washington, D.C.—With fewer than 340 animals remaining, the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale is one of the most imperiled whale species in North America. 

In an effort to save these animals from the brink of extinction, Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Right Whale Coexistence Act, which would establish a new grant program to fund collaborative research projects between government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and maritime industries to develop innovative technologies to reduce human impacts on North Atlantic right whales.  

North Atlantic right whales once numbered in the tens of thousands, but centuries of whaling had decimated the population by the 1930’s when the practice was banned. Today, the species is dwindling—commonly victim to ship collisions and fishing line entanglements.

“The New England coast is an important area for the North Atlantic right whales to forage and feed. Our coastal communities, in turn, depend on the whales to support a healthy marine ecosystem,” said Congressman Seth Moulton. “This legislation will create new opportunities to save these critically-endangered animals. We can’t let another species go extinct on our watch.”

“Despite ongoing efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales, the species has struggled to recover, with fewer than 340 whales currently remaining,” said Senator Booker. “I’m proud to introduce this bicameral legislation that will fund a collaborative and comprehensive approach between the public and private sectors to help protect this highly endangered and iconic species.” 

The Right Whale Coexistence Act of 2022: 

  • Creates a new grant program at the Department of Commerce to fund collaborative projects designed to reduce the impact of human activities on the North Atlantic right whale, and authorizes $15 million annually from 2022-2032 in new funding.
  • Specifies that state and tribal agencies, research institutions, nonprofit organizations, vessel owner and operators, members of maritime industries like fishing, shipping, and boating, and any other entity with the required expertise for North Atlantic right whale conservation may apply for grants.
  • Directs the Secretary of Commerce to prioritize projects that have the greatest likelihood of reducing impacts from fishing gear entanglement and vessel collision, while also prioritizing projects that involve private sector stakeholders and will provide economic benefits to small businesses in the United States.
  •  Requires periodic reports to Congress on the results and effectiveness of the program. 

In 2019, Moulton secured $1.5 million for research to help scientists, commercial fishermen and conservation groups better protect the North Atlantic right whale. 

Moulton also partnered with Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) the same year to reintroduce the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act, a bipartisan plan that would invest $5 million annually in government grants that states, non-profits, and members of the fishing and marine shipping industries can use to fund research and efforts that restore the North Atlantic right whale population. 

Representatives Ann McLane Kuster and Jared Huffman are also sponsors of this legislation. 

The Right Whale Coexistence Act by the following organizations: Animal Welfare Institute, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, Born Free USA, Center for Biological Diversity, Cetacean Society International, Conservation Law Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, EDF Renewables, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment America, Environmental Investigation Agency, Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, Inland Ocean Coalition, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket, NY4WHALES, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Oceanic Preservation Society, Ocean Conservation Research, Ørsted, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Save the Manatees Club, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, World Wildlife Fund