Marine Mammal Protection Act, U.S.A.

Nigel Allen Nigel.Allen at launchpad.unc.edu
Sat Jul 17 23:57:53 EST 1993


Here is a July 14 press release from Defenders of Wildlife.
I downloaded it from the PR On-Line BBS in Maryland at 410-363-0834.

 Conservation Coalition Opposes Compromise on Marine Mammal
Protection Act at Hearings Today
 To: National Desk
 Contact: Joan Moody or Christopher Croft of Defenders of Wildlife,
          202-659-9510

   WASHINGTON, July 14  -- At Senate hearings
today, Defenders of Wildlife and a coalition of about 20 other
conservation and animal protection organizations urged Congress to
pass strong reauthorization legislation that doesn't take the
"protection" out of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).  The
coalition opposed a compromise proposal supported by the fishing
industry.
     The federal government currently estimates that more than
100,000 marine mammals are killed each year in interactions with
humans, mostly in fishing operations.  Today's coalition testimony
before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation pointed out flaws in a government proposal, as well
as in a compromise proposal that would transform the MMPA from a
"protection" law into a "management" law.  The compromise proposal
is endorsed by more than 30 fishing industry groups and seven
conservation organizations not in the coalition.  Defenders of
Wildlife participated in negotiating sessions with the fishing
industry but rejected the compromise as inadequate.
     Christopher Croft, Defenders' Marine Wildlife Coordinator,
says the compromise is dangerous for dolphins, whales and sea
otters because, "For the first time in history, the MMPA is
experiencing a serious threat to the underlying principle of
marine mammal protection.  The compromise proposal, if codified
into law, would set the dangerous precedent of permitting the
killing of threatened and endangered marine mammal species."
   First passed into law in 1972, the MMPA currently offers marine
mammals greater protection than other endangered species under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The MMPA forbids the killing of
"depleted" populations and even "de facto depleted" (i.e., unknown)
populations of marine mammals.  "Depleted" -- which implies less
imperilment than "threatened" or "endangered" -- is defined as a
population that has been diminished below 60 percent of its
carrying capacity.
     The compromise proposal, however, would allow a kill quota if
sanctioned by the endangered species recovery teams for threatened
Steller's sea lions and for endangered monk seals, humpback whales
and other large whales.
     The compromise also suggests that Congress amend the MMPA to
allow killing of supposedly robust populations of "nuisance"
animals following public and scientific review. Croft, a former
government tunaboat observer, says, "Technology development, not
killing, is the solution to any problem interactions between
marine mammals and fishermen.  The public has been revolted by the
unintentional slaughters of dolphins in tuna nets."
     In addition to other weaknesses in the compromise proposal,
it would allow fishing interests to disproportionately influence
policy regarding protection for marine mammals, according to
Defenders.

 -30-


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