Pallone Introduces Legislation to Reauthorize the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Oct 16, 2003

Washington, D.C. --- Stating that the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) should be strengthened with reauthorization this year, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, introduced legislation today that preserves the acts 1972 vision of both marine mammal protection and precaution, and incorporates the best ideas offered by the Bush administration and interested parties ranging from the sportfishing and public display industries to the animal welfare and environmental communities.

The New Jersey congressman introduced the Marine Mammal Preservation and Recovery Act of 2003 in an attempt to reenergize reauthorization that has been delayed for four years.

"Contrary to the efforts of others in this Congress to weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act through strategic piecemeal amendments, I have always urged that it deserves nothing less than a comprehensive reauthorization," Pallone said. "Maintaining protection for marine mammals need not be a contentious or partisan issue. I urge support of this comprehensive and precautionary-minded reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act."

When the Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted in 1972, it was with a vision of protection and precaution. It was created to right the ecological wrongs caused by generations of slaughter driven by our collective greed for the products that marine mammals supplied. The founding goal of the Act was to provide a broad moratorium on the taking of marine mammals in order to maintain and rebuild healthy populations of whales and dolphins, seals and sea lions, and other marine mammals.

Pallone said that even though protection and precaution have paid off with the recovery of some marine mammal species to estimated pre-harvest levels, we should not now be lulled into a false sense of complacency. The New Jersey congressman said many populations, such as North Atlantic right whales and bowhead whales in the Arctic, remain endangered. Pallone said we also cannot ignore the negative effects shipping, and oil and gas exploration have on marine mammals.

The Marine Mammal Preservation and Recovery Act of 2003:

Provides a refined definition for the term harassment that is consistent with the recommendations of the National Research Council and accounts for the cumulative, as opposed to merely incidental, effects of behavioral changes in marine mammals.

Enhances protections for marine mammals in captivity, including the establishment of a new advisory committee to encourage the promulgation of regulations by the Secretary of Agriculture for captive care and maintenance, an updated and publicly accessible captive marine mammal inventory, and elimination of all marine mammal traveling exhibits.

Provides increased funding opportunities for the development of fishing gear that would decrease harmful interactions with marine mammals.

Authorizes research and grant programs to study methods of non-lethal deterrence and control of nuisance seals and sea lions, whose robust populations have been of growing concern in coastal California.

Reauthorizes and improves the John H. Prescott funding assistance program to allow an improved nationwide response to stranding and entanglement events.

Clarifies the provisions regarding the import and export of Native marine mammal handicrafts.

Modernizes the system of penalties and fines for violations of the Act for the first time in 30 years.

Expands the list of fisheries included in the take reduction team process to include both commercial and non-commercial fisheries using comparable gear.