The Administration released its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal to Congress on February 10, 2020, again requesting the elimination of the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) beginning on October 1, 2020. I regret having to share this news with you and am concerned about the impact this proposal would have on marine mammals, our marine environment, and coastal communities, all three of which we believe are important to the broad American public.
In the early 1970s, in response to the American public’s concern with human-caused declines of marine mammal populations, widespread recognition that marine mammals are important ocean ambassadors, and an understanding that they play a critical role in the health and productivity of our world’s oceans, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This legislation firmly placed the United States at the forefront of marine mammal and marine ecosystem conservation. The MMPA supports sustainable use of ocean resources to maintain healthy populations of marine mammals and healthy marine ecosystems, which facilitate coastal economies generating significant revenues and jobs over the long-term. As mandated by the MMPA, the Commission has, for nearly half a century, provided independent, science based oversight of federal activities and programs affecting marine mammals—a function performed by no other agency. We proudly perform these duties with a modest annual operating budget of $3.616 million.
We have served you in carrying out the intent of Congress to help ensure that whales, manatees, dolphins, seals, sea otters, polar bears, and other marine mammals survive for generations to come. The proposed elimination of the Commission comes at a time when rapid environmental change to ocean environments is occurring and decades of marine stewardship are achieving some success because of a strong American environmental ethic that balances economic needs with the conservation of our natural resources. We hope to continue fulfilling our Congressional mandate to responsibly manage and protect marine mammals and their ecosystems, which are vital to our economy, prosperity, and future.
Daryl J. Boness, Ph.D.
Chairman, Marine Mammal Commission