Dear Member of Congress,
I am writing to ask you to oppose any legislation that would weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act, including H.R. 3133, the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Act.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) provides protections for all marine mammals in U.S. waters, including whales, dolphins, seals, sea otters, and manatees. It recognizes the importance of marine mammals to the oceans and seeks to restore or maintain populations of these animals at healthy and productive levels. The law protects marine mammals by prohibiting activities that harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal, or attempt to do so. There are already exemptions granted by the law that permit limited harm to marine mammals from human activities.
H.R. 3133 would gut core provisions of the law that require careful review before permits to harass marine mammals can be issued to industrial users of the ocean, such as oil and gas companies. Federal government scientists who are responsible for reviewing these permit requests and ensuring the protection of marine mammals would be sharply restricted in their ability to do so. For example, the bill would remove standards in the law to limit harm to “small numbers” of marine mammals. Furthermore, the bill would fast track approval of permits to harass marine mammals. Even worse, it would require automatic approval of permits to harm marine mammals if government scientists had not finished their reviews in short order.
Thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a number of marine mammal species that were suffering heavy losses or even facing extinction have grown to healthier population levels. Hundreds of thousands of dolphins have been saved from large commercial fishing nets in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, harbor porpoise deaths in the Gulf of Maine have declined, and Northern elephant and gray seal populations have rebounded. It is essential that the law remain highly protective, because it can take several decades, or even a century, for a species to recover from low population levels. This is particularly the case for longer-lived species such as whales, which may not start reproducing until they are 10-20 years old and can live to be over a hundred years old.
The MMPA provides vital protections that marine mammals cannot afford to lose. Human uses of the ocean can continue with these protections in place, just as they do now. Thanks to the MMPA, whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals have a fighting chance for survival.
Therefore, I urge you to maintain the Marine Mammal Protection Act in its current from by opposing H.R. 3133 and any other bills or amendments that aim to undermine or weaken this essential ocean conservation law.