The Dolphin Brigade, a band of dolphin-costumed “lobbyists,” marched on Capitol Hill today to demand that Congress reject a proposal by U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) that would undermine the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the best safeguard in American law that dolphins, whales, seals and other marine mammals swimming in U.S. waters have against death and injury from commercial fishing gear.
“This is just another attempt by this Congress to strip away key environmental protections,” said Ted Morton, Oceana’s federal policy director, who accompanied the Dolphin Brigade to Capitol Hill. “We welcome the Dolphin Brigade to Washington and urge Congress to maintain basic tools of survival for ocean wildlife.”
H.R. 2130, sponsored by Congressman Gilchrest, would eliminate a key deadline requiring commercial fisheries to reduce the catch of marine mammals to insignificant levels. H.R. 2130 was passed by the House Resources Committee in May 2005, and is now awaiting action by the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill currently has no co-sponsors. There have also been proposals by the House Resources Committee to include H.R. 2130 in other unrelated budget actions.
“Dolphins can’t talk and they can’t vote, but those of us who can need to speak up to keep the Marine Mammal Protection Act intact – particularly its deadlines for reducing marine mammal deaths and injuries in commercial fishing,” said Morton.
Dolphin Brigade members rode the Metro subway system, sipped latte grandes in Hill coffee shops and read newspapers on streets surrounding the Capitol. The objective was to raise the public’s awareness of Gilchrest’s H.R. 2130, which could mean life or death for Flipper and his marine mammal cousins. Joined by their human friends from Oceana, the Dolphin Brigadeers distributed copies of a new issue ad calling for Congress to not to kill “the dolphin deadline” and protect one of the compliance mechanisms in the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“No deadlines means no action,” Morton added. “We need to protect, not kill, the dolphin deadline.”
Please see fact sheet below for additional information about changes proposed to the Marine Mammal Protection Act under H.R. 2130. Information is also available at www.saveflipper.org.
Fact Sheet on H.R. 2130
Why We Must Save Flipper and Not Kill the Dolphin Deadline
Congress, led by U.S. Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), is advancing legislation to remove from the Marine Mammal Protection Act a deadline critical to reducing injuries and deaths among dolphins, whales and other marine mammals due to commercial fishing. The removal of this deadline will continue the unnecessary killing of tens of thousands of dolphins, whales, sea otters, and other marine mammals.
H.R. 2130, sponsored by Congressman Gilchrest, would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The bill currently has no co-sponsors. The bill was reported out of the House Resources Committee in May 2005. However, during the Committee discussion, representatives from both sides of the aisle expressed their concerns about this bill. Rep. Gilchrest promised to address the controversial issues – including fixing the provisions that would kill “the dolphin deadline” -- before the bill reaches a vote in the House. To date, nothing has been done to improve the bill. There have also been proposals by the House Resources Committee to include H.R. 2130 in other unrelated budget actions, further bypassing full consideration by the House of Representatives.
Each year, commercial fishing operations unintentionally catch and kill more than 300,000 marine mammals worldwide – more than 800 a day. The United States contributes significantly to this problem. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy calls this “dirty fishing” or bycatch one of the biggest threats to marine mammal populations.
The Marine Mamnal Protection Act requires the federal government to reduce the killing and injury of marine mammals in commercial fisheries to negligible levels. Congress set April 2001 as the deadline to achieve this goal, but that deadline has not been met. Now, instead of working harder to enforce the deadline, some in Congress just want to do away with it altogether. If they do, marine mammals will lose the most basic and fundamental protection given to them; and their deaths, already at unacceptable levels, could increase by the thousands.
H.R. 2130 removes the key deadline for minimizing the catch of marine mammals. This would effectively take away the only action-forcing mechanism to reduce the catch of most marine mammals to insignificant levels. Ironically, this is occurring after the Bush Administration only recently created the first scientific definition of what it means to reach “insignificant levels.”