Cantwell’s Legislation to Rescue, Rehabilitate Marine Mammals Passes Commerce Committee

Legislation contains funding to rescue and treat stranded, entangled marine mammals; Also requires study on connection between ocean warming, marine mammal mortality

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to reauthorize and revise the Marine Mammal Protection Act passed through the committee today. 

The legislation would reauthorize the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue and Response Grant Program to provide funding to assist marine mammals that are entangled or become sick or injured in U.S. waters. In 2019, organizations in Washington state received just under $300,000 from the program. Overall in Fiscal Year 2019, 43 programs in 18 states received a total of more than $3.5 million in Prescott Grants. 

The bill also directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create a Marine Mammal Health MAP, expand the availability of their data to assist with research, and requires a scientific study on the connection between ocean warming events, such as harmful algae blooms, and marine mammal mortality. 

“Orcas and other marine mammals are iconic throughout the Pacific Northwest,” Cantwell said. “This legislation would authorize grants needed to assist marine mammals tangled in gear and other issues, will establish a rapid response program, and create a study on harmful algae blooms and issues plaguing many of our coastal states and environments.” 

The passage of the legislation through the Commerce Committee comes amidst increasingly dire reports of widespread marine animal die-offs and other issues for the world’s maritime habitats. A recent report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that oceans are getting hotter, losing oxygen, and becoming more acidic, driving a cascade of negative effects across these critical ecosystems. 

In addition to Cantwell, the legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).