SAVE Right Whales Act of 2019 (S.2453)
A bi-partisan bill to “to assist in the conservation of the North Atlantic right whale by supporting and providing financial resources for North Atlantic right whale conservation programs and projects of persons with expertise required for the conservation of North Atlantic right whales, and for other purposes”
THE NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE
Each winter, the warm waters of the Georgia coast beckon our blubbery friends from the north. Arriving in late November and early December, calving North Atlantic right whales make their annual journey from the frigid seas of New England and Nova Scotia to give birth and rear young off of the temperate Atlantic coast of Georgia and Florida, the species’ only known calving ground. Since 1981, when these beautiful creatures were first spotted along our coast, each calving season has been met with great anticipation, and often anxiety, by right whale supporters.
With roughly 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the wild, the species is the world’s most endangered large whale and lingering on the brink of extinction. After the hunting of right whales was banned in the 1930s, the population saw a steady increase from its lowest estimated population of 100. However, that trend has reversed in recent years. Since 2017, the deaths of 28 right whales have been confirmed, and as the species has an increasingly low birth rate, this is not a net positive equation.
Successful reproduction is a challenge for the North Atlantic right whale. Female right whales reach reproductive maturity at around 10 years of age. Historically, the species can give birth to only one calf every three to five years, yet increased trauma from entanglement and ship strikes have increased this interval to nearly 10 years. With an estimated population of less than 100 breeding females, every birth is a cause for celebration.
North Atlantic Right Whale
Estimated population of only 400 individuals
Females reach reproductive maturity at age 10
Adults average of 35-55 feet long and can weigh up to 70 tons
The state marine mammal of Georgia
The life of a North Atlantic right whale is fraught with danger. And the leading causes of death are related to human activities: vessel collisions and fishing gear entanglement. Of the eight confirmed North Atlantic right whales deaths this summer in Canada, three of those deaths were the result of ship strikes. Additionally, it is estimated that nearly 84% of all North Atlantic right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once.
Another human activity, seismic air-gun blasting, which is used in the search for oil and gas below the ocean floor, is an emerging threat to the North Atlantic right whale.
For more detailed information on the North Atlantic right whale and the work being performed to save the species, please visit: https://oceana.org/RightWhaleToSave
The SAVE Right Whales Act of 2019
Sponsored by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tom Carpenter (D-DE), the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales Act of 2019 (S.2453), also known as SAVE Right Whales Act, seeks to establish “a grant program to promote collaboration between states, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce human impacts on right whales and promote the recovery of the population.”
The bi-partisan Senate bill, introduced in September 2019, would authorize up to $5 million annually from 2019 - 2029 to projects that promote or contribute to the sustainability and recovery of the wild population of North Atlantic right whales through:
the implementation of conservation programs
the promotion of cooperative projects with foreign governments, local communities, the fishing industry, the private sector, and NGOs
the development, testing, and use of innovative technologies
The SAVE Right Whales Act also encourages the coordination of North Atlantic right whale recovery efforts and projects between the United States and Canadian governments.
“The North Atlantic right whale was named the official Georgia state marine mammal when I served as minority leader in the Georgia State House, and I am proud that my state’s coast is still home to one of the few known calving grounds for this magnificent animal,” Senator Johnny Isakson said in a U.S. Senate press release. “I’m glad to introduce the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered Right Whales Act to help learn about how we can better protect this important beast whose numbers continue to dwindle.”
The Georgia Conservancy would like to thank Senator Isakson for his support of the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale and for his leadership in sponsoring this important measure.
Right Whale Q&A with Cathy Sakas
The Georgia Conservancy sat down with Cathy Sakas to learn more about these rare animals - the North Atlantic right whale. Cathy is the former education coordinator at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary on Skidaway Island in Savannah and a former member of the Southeast U.S. Implementation Team for the Recovery of the North Atlantic right whale. As soon as she retired from Gray’s Reef Sanctuary in January 2014, she immediately set up Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to support the research projects and education and outreach programs of the Sanctuary.