Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Feds Focus on Whales In Inflation Bill

Right Whale
Bay Bulletin, $82 Million In Funding Announced To Overhaul Right Whale Monitoring

The U.S. government will spend an unprecedented $82 million in an effort to help the endangered North Atlantic right whale recover.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Monday that the $82 million in funding comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, a recently passed federal law which “aims to curb inflation by possibly reducing the federal government budget deficit, lowering prescription drug prices, and investing into domestic energy production while promoting clean energy.”

Somebody needs to explain to me how spending $82 million on whales does to fix inflation. 

There are less than 350 North Atlantic right whales left, and of those, only 70 are reproductively active females. NOAA says the primary threats that are pushing the species close to extinction are entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes.

The funding will be used to focus on technology—both existing technology like passive acoustic monitoring along the East Coast and new technologies like equipping vessels with whale detection and avoidance tools.

“During the past decade, right whales have changed their distribution patterns, spending more time in areas with fewer protections from vessel strikes and entanglements,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “…This funding allows us to invest in technologies to reduce the risk of vessel strikes, increase the use of on-demand fishing gear and improve enforcement of existing federal regulations.”

Right whale protection has become a controversial topic in the past year. Since NOAA proposed tightening offshore speed limits to include boats as small as 35 feet, there have been critics from the boating industry and hearings on Capitol Hill. Conservationists argued the speed limit is necessary and should be instituted immediately.

The new funding hones in on things like high-resolution satellite information to better understand where right whales spend time and how they use their habitat. The majority of the funding (about $35.8 million) will go toward passive acoustic monitoring, modeling, a satellite tagging program, and satellite artificial intelligence.

Another $20 million will be used for whale detection and avoidance technology. The rest will go towards enforcement efforts and furthering on-demand fishing gear technology.

It’s all part of NOAA Fisheries’ Road to Recovery for North Atlantic right whales. An Unusual Mortality Event was declared for the species in 2017 and since then, 115 North Atlantic right whales have been documented as dead, seriously injured or in poor health.

Notice what's conspicuously missing,
the theory that a recent spate of whale deaths on the East Coast is due to the sonar surveys and pile driving involved with the burgeoning wind power industry. I'm not yet convinced that the wind power industry is at fault, but Michael Shellenberger sure is: The Film That Could Save an Entire Whale Species is Now Free to Watch (video at link).

A month ago, Public released our first documentary, Thrown To The Wind, by journalist and filmmaker Jonah Markowitz. Thrown To The Wind reveals the reality behind the specious claims of an industry that has long billed itself as a boon to the natural environment. Our film exposes the price the world is actually paying for the industrialization of our oceans by offshore wind corporations: the killing of whales and the potential extinction of an entire cetacean species.

We founded Public to do precisely this kind of journalism: independent, uncompromising, evidence-based reporting that the mainstream media is too industry-captured and too ideologically blinkered to undertake. Those of you who are paying for Public make that possible. Without your support, we couldn’t do any of this.

Today, we’re releasing Thrown To The Wind widely, without the paywall. It’s imperative that this film reach as wide an audience as possible, to maximize its real-world impact. The survival of the North American Right Whale may depend on it.

Beegee Wellborn comments "I just started watching it right now – at 7 a.m. CST – and I have to give you all fair warning, the beginning is LADEN with touchy-feely, treacly New Age crap. IOW it’s not a NatGeo, but obviously a labor of love. Which is a shame, because it’s going to detract from average American being able to sit thru it all to get to the SO important, devastating research these folks did. Maybe they’re trying to reach hard-core environmentalists, too. I don’t know, but I can see it turning a lot of people off before they ever hit the heart of it and what a shame. That’s my impression so far."

I agree with Beege that it's kind of overwrought, with an air of certainty that the situation doesn't warrant, yet.

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