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California Resolution to Protect Gray Whale Sent to Bush, Congress

The Legislature approves the resolution, which calls for immediate federal action on behalf of the threatened species.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, chairman of the Joint Committee on Emergency Services and Homeland Security and the Legislature’s representative on the California Ocean Protection Council, announced Tuesday that his Assembly Joint Resolution 49 calling on Congress, the president and the National Marine Fisheries Service to take action to protect the California gray whale cleared its final hurdle by passing the California Legislature on Monday in a bipartisan 56-19 vote.

The resolution has been sent to President Bush, Congress and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“I am pleased that my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate have joined me in asking Congress, President Bush and the National Marine Fisheries Service to take immediate action to protect the California gray whale,” Nava said. “This magnificent marine mammal is again facing a number of threats to its existence, and it is imperative that we act to provide it with as much protection as possible so that it will be here for future generations.”

AJR 49 requests that Congress and the president call upon the National Marine Fisheries Service to undertake an immediate and comprehensive assessment of the California gray whale, and requests that they change its status to endangered. A revised listing would provide comprehensive protections for the gray whale as it travels from its breeding grounds in Mexico to its feeding grounds in the Arctic.

The California gray whale was placed on the endangered species list in 1970 but was removed in 1994 after it was believed that the population had recovered. New scientific evidence, however, indicates that historic populations were up to five times their current numbers.

The gray whale experienced a population collapse in 2000 in which up to a third of the population died off, and recent observations indicated that they may be in the midst of another die-off.

Threats to the gray whale’s survival include climate change, oil and gas exploration and leases in the Bering and Chukchi Sea feeding grounds, noise from seismic operations, military and nonmilitary sonar, liquefied natural gas terminals planned along the whale’s migration route, bottom trawling, pollution and other changes in ocean conditions that have drastically reduced their food supply.

“California’s coastline and the marine environment are precious and need to be protected for our children and grandchildren,” Nava said. “This resolution will send a strong message to Congress and the president that we need to take action now to save the gray whale.”

John Mann represents Assemblyman Pedro Nava.

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