Oceana and 21 other conservation groups today asked the U.S. Congress to protect the Dolphin Deadline, a key requirement that seeks to reduce the needless killing of dolphins, whales, manatees and other marine mammals by commercial fishing operations in the landmark Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“Reports indicate that amendments that will weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act may be voted on this spring in the House of Representatives,” the groups’ letter to Congress reads in part, and names bills sponsored by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif. (H.R. 4075) and Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md. (H.R. 2130). “These two bills are similar and would both loosen the requirement to reduce bycatch in commercial fisheries and weaken protections for marine mammals in captivity.”
Bycatch is the catch of non-targeted marine life by commercial fishing operations.
“Before today is over, an average of five dolphins and whales will be illegally killed in fishing gear not meant for them in U.S. waters, and the same will happen tomorrow and the day after if Congress kills the Dolphin Deadline,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s Ocean Wildlife Advocate. “The Dolphin Deadline is a key action-forcing mechanism requiring commercial fishing to minimize this needless harm to dolphins and other marine mammals to insignificant levels.”
The Dolphin Deadline pertains to a fundamental requirement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act which requires commercial fisheries to reduce the death and injury of marine mammals. 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. Instead of trying harder to enforce the law, some members of Congress now seek to eliminate the deadline altogether.
According to a report released last week by Oceana on the five-year anniversary of the missed Dolphin Deadline, approximately 2,000 dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals are illegally killed each year because of the failure to meet the requirements of the deadline.
For the complete letter, click here.