Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Right Whale Day 2024 at the New England Aquarium

Today we celebrated the 2nd annual Right Whale Day and I had the privilege of joining EEA Undersecretary of Environment Stephanie Cooper,  DFG Commissioner Tom O’Shea, DMF Director Dan McKiernan, Vikki Spruill, President & CEO, New England Aquarium, state and local officials, fishing industry representatives and partner conservation organizations during today’s speaking program at the New England Aquarium.

Saving the right whale from extinction is an epic challenge, and one that summons us to action because our waters host such a substantial number of a limited population for several months. Through an ongoing commitment, innovation, and sacrifice by the commercial fishing industry, Massachusetts is rising to the challenge, and taking the actions our stewardship demands.

Having successfully pursued significant measures over the last several years to protect endangered North Atlantic Right Whales in Massachusetts, as the Senate Chair of the legislature's Coastal Caucus, I have partnered with other members of the caucus, in taking another major step to protect the whales, the marine environment, and the state's commercial fisheries, by filing SD.3009, "An Act Relative to Abandoned Fishing Gear,” which would establish the legal framework for this chronic nemesis to be removed from the state's waters through appropriate regulations promulgated by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. This bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislation has garnered early co-sponsorship from Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) and Representatives Ann Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) and Kathleen LaNatra (D-Kingston).

The filing of the bill comes following months of research on the subject by the DMF, and collaboration with myself and other legislators, with a focus on prioritizing the protection of right whales while recognizing the high price currently being paid by those in the commercial lobster fishery to protect this endangered species through the extreme economic sacrifice of enduring fishery closures that last for months and prevent harvesters and others from being able to earn a living.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Massachusetts Environmental Trust’s (MET) Right Whale/Roseate Tern license plate, the first philanthropic specialty license plate established to benefit conservation. Over the last 30 years, the Trust has awarded more than $28 million to 800 projects that have supported the protection of endangered marine animals and restoration of critical aquatic ecosystems.

During the event, I had the honor of presenting a special citation to the Center for Coastal Studies’ Right Whale Ecology Program Director Stormy Mayo in recognition of his 47-year career pioneering right whale research and conservation in Cape Cod Bay. Mayo also received a commemorative right whale license plate.