By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
The U.S. House has just voted 259 to 160 to reject a bad amendment that would have placed some of America’s most critically endangered marine mammals at even greater risk for their lives while making it easier for oil and gas interests to conduct offshore development activities.
The amendment offered by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., would have eviscerated core provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to fast-track approval of seismic gun surveys done for offshore oil and gas development. Currently, under the Act, which has provided protections to marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, since 1972, anyone who seeks to proceed with an activity that can cause the harassment, hunting, capture or killing of marine mammals in U.S. waters needs to apply for an “incidental take permit.”
There are good reasons for such safeguards. Seismic gun surveys send deafening pulses of sound to the ocean floor which bounce back up to be analyzed for signs of oil and gas deposits on the ocean floor. These are intense blasts of sound, which occur every four to six seconds for hours at a time and for days, weeks or months on end, and they disturb feeding, breeding and other behaviors among whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. They’ve even caused deaths of animals.
Rep. Johnson’s amendment would have provided an automatic approval process for such permits if the National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t issue a permit “fast enough.” It would also have allowed those with incidental take permits to harm more whales and dolphins, in a much larger area of the ocean. Additionally, it would have limited the NMFS’s ability to take into account any potential cumulative impacts that might threaten marine mammals, such as from multiple surveys in the same area.
Had the amendment gone through, it would have been particularly dangerous for North Atlantic right whales, already critically endangered, with less than 400 surviving along the U.S. and Canadian coast. Allowing more seismic gun surveys in their habitat could be devastating to this species.
We applaud House members for rightly rejecting this insidious amendment. This is a clear signal to Rep. Johnson and the oil and gas interests that Americans believe in the protection of precious marine wildlife and won’t sacrifice their interests so lightly.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
In 2019, HSUS legal team secured crucial wins against trophy hunting, fur, puppy mills and farm animal suffering
Our Animal Protection Litigation team plays a critical role at the Humane Society of the United States, filing lawsuits and legal petitions to support our major campaigns, drafting language for state and federal animal protection bills and ballot measures, and defending animal protection laws once . . .
Paragon or victim? Thor the bulldog’s win in national dog show focuses spotlight on suffering of flat-faced dogs
On Thanksgiving Day, with an estimated 20 million viewers watching, Thor the bulldog was handpicked from a crowded field of 196 breeds and crowned Best in Show at the 2019 National Dog Show. “With his adorable waddle and Winston Churchill looks, the dog won over . . .
Each year, the heroes of our Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International Animal Rescue Teams wade into the worst possible situations to pull out animals who are living without hope. Today, on Giving Tuesday, I want to highlight the stories of . . .
Major gains for farm animals in 2019, including advances for laying hens, growth in plant-based foods
The year 2019 saw some spectacular victories in our campaigning for farm animals around the world. We spearheaded successful campaigns in three U.S. states to pass laws against the use of cages for egg-laying hens. Our work to reduce meat consumption also advanced as we . . .
New Jersey could soon join the growing ranks of states that have banned the inhumane shark fin trade. A bill banning the sale and trade of shark fins last night passed the Assembly, and is now on its way to the governor’s desk for his . . .
BREAKING NEWS: President Trump signs PACT Act; law will crack down on some of the worst animal cruelty crimes
Starting today, those who commit the most extreme acts of cruelty against animals will face severe federal penalties. President Trump has just signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act that authorizes the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute . . .
BREAKING NEWS: Judge rejects meat lobby attempt to block California’s landmark farm animal protection law
A California judge has rejected an attempt by the meat lobby to stop Proposition 12, the state’s historic law that would ban the extreme cage confinement of egg-laying hens, mother pigs and baby veal calves, from going into effect. This is an important win for . . .
New Mexico will no longer allow trophy hunters to prey upon its cougars with cruel snares and leghold traps. The State Game Commission just now voted to pass a proposal that would end all recreational trapping of these majestic animals, as well as limit trophy . . .
Moments ago, Michigan passed into law a ban on the production and sale of eggs from chickens locked in cruel cages. This is a remarkable and historic moment in our work to end the cage confinement of farm animals. Michigan is a major Midwestern agriculture . . .