Marine mammals in the United States have been at risk due to human activities such as bycatch, ship strikes, and offshore drilling. In the 1970’s, the threat to marine mammals reached its peak. This led lawmakers to enact the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Signed into law by President Nixon, the new act made it illegal to hunt marine mammals, including whales and polar bears.
The MMPA had a huge impact in allowing marine mammal populations to slowly climb and species that faced extinction have grown to healthier population levels. Not one marine mammal species in the United States has gone extinct in the 45 years since the law was passed, even though human activities in the waters have significantly increased.
A huge reason why the MMPA has been so successful is the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), who are in charge of overseeing the MMPA’s implementation. To establish the commission, a tax needed to be in place for it funding. The tax is one of the most affordable for U.S. citizens at just one cent per U.S. citizen per year.
For one cent, we are giving the commission the opportunity to ensure the protection of our marine mammals. Seems like an amazing deal. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has recently released a budget proposal to Congress that would eliminate the Marine Mammal Commission altogether.
The Marine Mammal Commission is responsible for a wide variety of program that establishes proper protection to mammals. A few of these include ensuring that rescue professionals are properly trained to save injured marine mammals, and that no actions cause any significant disturbance to other animals in the vicinity.
The MMC also balances this guidance with consideration for the safety and economic needs of the fishing and tourism communities that rely on marine and coastal resources for their economic livelihoods. The presence of whales leads to algae growth, contributing to a healthy fishery. Thriving dolphin populations in the wild is a draw for tourism. Every species has a role to play in the sustainability of our ocean and marine communities.
The removal of funding is a huge problem in the Trump administrations continued dismantling of environmental protections (here and here). Marine mammals in states such as Florida are at a constant threat due to population growth, the increased activity in water ways, and industrial growth in and around our nation’s water.
The good news is that we can still fight it. Reach out to your congressional representatives that any budget they pass should ensure funding for the Marine Mammal Commission.
You can find your representative and contact information here. Every voice does matter. For Congress to listen to what their constituents want, they do need to here from us.