March 07, 2019

Moulton, Rutherford lead Bipartisan Effort in Congress to SAVE Right Whales

March 7, 2019

WASHINGTON—Today, Representatives Seth Moulton (MA-06) and John Rutherford (FL-04) reintroduced the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act. Representatives Bill Keating (MA-09), Jared Huffman (CA-02), and Rep. Bill Posey (FL-08), joined them as original sponsors.

According to the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest whales in the world. Today, only about 425 North Atlantic Right Whales remain. The SAVE Right Whales Act of 2019 would create 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.

“We humans have nearly killed every right whale in existence through our direct and indirect actions over the past two centuries.” Moulton said. “Now we have a choice: we can be the generation that brings the right whale back, or the generation that allows their extinction. Let’s not miss this unique moment. Passing the SAVE Right Whales Act is the first of many steps that Congress should take to help restore the right whale population.”

“The North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction. We must empower scientists, fishermen, and government to work together to find innovative solutions to rebuild this marine mammal species,” Rutherford said. “The loss of the right whale would disrupt the entire ocean ecosystem – upsetting fish stock viability, tourism, and our coastal economies that rely on healthy oceans. I am proud to team up with my congressional colleagues on this important mission.”

“With fewer than 425 right whales remaining, we must do everything we can to save them from extinction,” said Huffman. “This issue is critically important, which is why I’m convening a hearing this week in the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife subcommittee to dig deeper into the many threats facing the right whale and hear from experts on the best path forward. I’m grateful to join Rep. Moulton in introducing his SAVE Right Whales Act, which supports research and new technology development so that we can find solutions to save this iconic species.”

“This bill is an important step in protecting and restoring the population of our right whales. Florida is home to diverse marine wildlife which is critical to maintaining the balance of our delicate ecosystem. It’s something we all depend on,” said Posey.

In addition to the grants, the bill would fund government research to track plankton, the whales’ main source of food. According to Defenders of Wildlife, a 70-ton right whale eats about 2,600 pounds of zooplankton per day during peak feeding season. Researchers want to learn more about how human actions affect zooplankton, which in turn affects the health and migration patterns of the whales.

Today’s bill reintroduction comes in the middle of right whale calving season. Scientists in Florida and Georgia, have spotted seven right whale calves so far this year. This is good news after last year, when no calves were spotted and an estimated 17 adult right whales died. According to Defenders of Wildlife, right whales only give birth every four years, and they are not able to reproduce until age eight. So, a single death among the whales able to reproduce threatens the entire species.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing examining threats to the North Atlantic right whales this morning. A livestream will be available here starting at 10:00 AM EST.

In addition to bipartisan support in Congress, the SAVE Right Whales Act has support from scientists, conservationists, and fishermen from across the country.

Dr. Scott Kraus, the Vice President and Senior Science Advisor for the Anderson Cabot Center at the New England Aquarium will testify at this morning’s hearing. “The SAVE Act is a good step to ensure that fishermen and right whales continue to coexist in the Atlantic Ocean,” he said.

“Our industry has already taken significant steps to reduce whale entanglements, but clearly more can be done and must be done,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “This legislation will provide critical funding that will allow us to continue and expand our efforts to find solutions that will allow fishermen and right whales to coexist.”

Nora Apter, Legislative Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “We are at a pivotal point in the fight to save the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. This bipartisan legislation is critical to support the recovery of this iconic species before it’s too late. Leaders in Congress must take immediate action by taking up and passing the SAVE Right Whales Act on the House floor this year.”

The following organizationshave endorsed the SAVE Right Whales Act:

Animal Welfare Institute

Born Free USA

Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance

Center for Biological Diversity

Cetacean Society International

Conservation Law Foundation

Defenders of Wildlife

Earth Law Center


Endangered Species Coalition

Environment America

Friends of the Earth

Humane Society Legislative Fund

International Fund for Animal Welfare

International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute

Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket

Natural Resources Defense Council


Ocean Conservation Research


Sanctuary Education Advisory Specialists SEAS LLC

Save Animals Facing Extinction

Save the Manatee

SeaWorld Parks

Seven Circles Foundation

Sierra Club

The Humane Society of the United States

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Women Working for Oceans

World Wildlife Fund

Members of these groups also voiced their support for the bill:

Cathy Liss, President, Animal Welfare Institute said: “AWI thanks Congressman Moulton for once again introducing the SAVE Right Whales Act and for his continued leadership. This bipartisan legislation would secure critically important funding and facilitate collaborative efforts to bring much-needed protections for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, a species iconic to the entire East Coast.”

CT Harry, Marine Campaigner for IFAW said: “The North Atlantic right whale is in crisis. With a population of fewer than 420, now more than ever, the re-introduction of the SAVE Right Whales Act is imperative to enabling scientists, conservationists, and industry to work together to save this iconic animal from fishing gear entanglements and fatal ship strikes. The time to SAVE the right whale from extinction is now.”

Dr. Priscilla Brooks, Vice President and Director of Ocean Conservation at Conservation Law Foundation said: “North Atlantic right whales are in dire need of our help. This magnificent species is on the brink of extinction, with less than 420 whales remaining on the planet. We need to develop long-term solutions to protect right whales as soon as possible, and this bill is a meaningful step forward. We’re thankful for Representative Moulton’s leadership on this critically important issue.”

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife said: “In the past two years alone, North Atlantic right whales have experienced record-breaking losses from fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes. Thank you to Representative Moulton for spearheading legislation to provide funding for the innovation and collaboration that these desperately imperiled whales need to survive and recover. The conservation actions facilitated by this legislation could literally make the difference between life and death for these whales.”

Sara Amundson, President, Humane Society Legislative Fund said: “We don’t have a minute to waste: North Atlantic right whales could become extinct within our lifetimes. Research is urgently needed to understand and alleviate the threats the whales encounter along their East Coast migratory route. I applaud Representatives Moulton and Rutherford for recognizing this crisis and introducing the SAVE Right Whales Act.”