Florida lawmakers reintroduce bill to fund right whale restoration efforts

In this Dec. 30, 2010 photo provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a female North Atlantic right whale Catalog #3911 is entangled in fishing gear. By February 2011, she was dead. A study published by the journal Current Biology on Thursday, June 3, 2021, says the hulking giants of the deep, the North Atlantic right whales, are about three feet smaller than they were just 20 years ago. (NOAA Permit #594-1759) (Uncredited, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Reps. John Rutherford (R-Jacksonville) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Orlando) introduced the Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) Right Whales Act that would invest $5 million annually in grants that states, nonprofits and members of the fishing and marine shipping industries can use to fund research and efforts that restore the North Atlantic right whale population.

Fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales currently exist in the wild, and only 41 calves have been born since 2017. Additionally, there are fewer than 100 breeding females left in the world.

“The North Atlantic right whale is in desperate need of our help,” Rutherford said. “With their calving grounds right off the First Coast, this legislation seeks to prevent another tragedy of a right whale washing up on our shores. I’m encouraged by the widespread support this bill has received in the past and I’m thankful to Representative Murphy for joining me as we work together to rescue the North Atlantic right whale from extinction.”

Experts unanimously agree the biggest threats to the right whale are ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements.

“The North Atlantic right whale is critically endangered, with less than 400 left as a result of fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes,” Murphy said. “Floridians pride ourselves on our diverse wildlife and these whales can often be seen off the coast of our state with their young. I’m proud to join Congressman Rutherford in this bipartisan effort to protect these majestic creatures.”

To see the full text of the SAVE Right Whales Act, click here.