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After One Year of White House Delay, Kerry Introduces Legislation to Require Protection of Endangered Whales

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

After One Year of White House Delay, Kerry Introduces Legislation to Require Protection of Endangered Whales

Senator John Kerry introduced legislation that would help protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from injury and death due to ship strikes, on the one year anniversary of the date the protections were proposed. Kerry's "Ship Strike Reduction Act of 2008" would require the Bush Administration to finalize a rule establishing speed limits for specified vessels in migratory paths of North Atlantic right whales. The federal rule enforcing the speed limits, known as "the Ship Strike Rule," was first proposed in February, 2007, but the rule has been buried in the regulatory process for over a year. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has strongly endorsed the legislation.

"Based on the best available scientific evidence, we know that reducing speed means saving whales," Kerry said. "The Bush Administration needs to lose the excuses, stop dragging their feet, and take immediate action to enforce the speed limit to protect endangered right whales. A continued delay in finalizing these protections will result in even more deaths that are easily avoidable, but the species simply cannot afford."

Ship strikes are the leading cause of death for the North Atlantic Right Whale. Top scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared that a reduction in speed was absolutely vital to protecting this critically endangered species. The proposed rule calls for reductions in speed limits to 10 knots for boats at least 65 feet long and traveling within 30 nautical miles of ports between Savannah, GA, and New York City, NY, during the peak right whale migratory months, November through March.

"Limiting vessel speed to 10 knots or less is the most effective, viable option for protecting right whales," said Jeff Flocken, Washington, D.C. Office Director for the IFAW. "As the possibility of more collisions from ship traffic continues to increase, the right whale faces an imminent threat of extinction."

"The Administration's own scientists have told us what needs to be done to save this species, yet there has been no movement on the recommendations in over a year. Senator Kerry's bill compels the Administration to finally move forward in protecting this endangered whale." Flocken said.

The North Atlantic right whale population was decimated by whaling at the turn of the last century. Less than 350 North Atlantic right whales exist today, making them one of the rarest whales in the world.

Founded in 1969, IFAW is an international animal welfare and conservation organization that works to protect wild and domestic animals and to broker solutions that benefit both animals and people.

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