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Bill Would Match Navy Marine Mammal Research Funds With $25M for the MMC

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Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) marked Earth Day by announcing the introduction of a bill that would provide $25 million per year to the Marine Mammal Commission to fund new research into the effects of human activities on whales and dolphins, with a particular focus on the effects of active sonar. “We need to end the fighting and resolve these issues, but we can’t really do that until we’re sure we all know what we’re talking about,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “We have to fully understand the effects of human activities, including underwater sound, on marine mammals and determine how to mitigate any harmful impact. That requires expanded and focused research.”  By comparison, the Navy, currently the largest source of research funding, spends $26 million per year on its marine mammal research programs, which include studies of the effects of sound as well as many other topics, including a wide range of population studies, and a recent agreement between the Navy and NRDC will devote $5 million per year to several topic of mutual interest. For several years, the MMC has recommended that an independent research initiative such as the one proposed by Abercrombie be established; many environmental advocates have also long called for research funding to be more independent of the Navy and the perceived constraints that its priorities impose on research topics.  Abercrombie is serving what is likely to be his last of ten terms as an Hawaiian congressman; he has announced plans to run for Governor in 2010.

An earlier version of the bill, HR 5106, was introduced in January 2008; it appears likely that the new bill is substantially similar.  Read the old bill here.

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