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10,000 Marine Mammals Dead by Missing the Dolphine Deadline

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Oceana Unveils Report On Fifth Anniversary Of Ignored Protection in Marine Mammal Protection Act


April 27, 2006
Washington, DC
Contact:
Dustin Cranor ( dcranor@oceana.org | 954-348-1314, 954-348-1314 (cell))




Approximately 10,000 dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals could have been saved in the last five years if the federal government had fulfilled its responsibilities under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and enforced the April 30, 2001, ‘Dolphin Deadline’ in that landmark legislation. Those are the conclusions of an original report by Oceana released today, in which the international ocean conservation group analyzed the effects of missing that critical deadline.

The Dolphin Deadline pertains to a fundamental requirement of the MMPA which requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to reduce the death and injury of marine mammals caused by commercial fishing operations to insignificant levels. Ten years ago, the U.S. Congress set April 30, 2001, as the deadline to meet this goal. Yet, five years past the deadline marine mammals continue to be killed at illegal levels, resulting in the serious injury and death of thousands of dolphins and whales. 

“Ignoring the law of the land takes a tragic toll at sea,” said Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s senior vice president for North America and chief scientist. “Five marine mammals on average have died each day in U.S. commercial fishing gear because of the government’s inaction.”

Oceana conducted an analysis of the most recent government stock assessment reports available for each of the marine mammal populations managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Twenty-seven marine mammal populations are still being illegally killed in significant numbers.  If the law was enforced approximately 1,900 marine mammals would be saved each year –- including 533 dolphins and porpoises, 27 whales, and 1,332 seals and sea lions.  

“The White House-appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy concluded that bycatch is one of the biggest threats to the future of marine mammal populations,” said Hirshfield. “If the government would enforce the law, the number of marine mammals harmed or killed each year by commercial fishing operations would be cut by more than one-third.”

Not only has the law not been enforced, but some members of Congress now want to eliminate this deadline altogether. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering legislation that would eliminate the Dolphin Deadline and potential action on the House Floor is anticipated the week of May 15.

“Congress should prevent any weakening of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and insist that the federal government enforce the current law,” said Hirshfield.
Editor’s Note:  For a copy of the report control-click Here or go to www.saveflipper.org  and choose reports.