Stop SEAS act from being passed

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As a constituent, I am writing to urge you to oppose H.R. 3133, the “Streamlining Environmental Approvals Act,” also known as the SEA Act.

For 45 years, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) has successfully balanced the need to protect marine mammals with growing economic development and resource extraction offshore. With the protection of the MMPA not one marine mammal species found in U.S. waters has gone extinct even though human activities in the ocean have dramatically increased—a tremendous record of success.

Under the MMPA, harassment of marine mammals—which includes permanent injury and disruption of vital functions which, in some cases lead to the death of animals—is generally prohibited. But an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) can be granted to take small numbers of marine mammals provided that, based on the best science available, the actions being permitted will have a negligible impact on species. As currently written, the law is the fulcrum of balancing reasonable development with protection of species, some of which are at growing risk from increasing activity in the oceans, and the existing IHA process is an important safeguard for limiting the impacts of offshore activities, like oil and gas development, on marine mammals

The SEA Act would amend the MMPA to weaken the standards for IHAs, including by removing the language that ensures that only a small number of marine mammals are affected. The bill also bypasses protections under the Endangered Species Act for threatened or endangered marine mammals, undermining important safeguards that ensure the survival and recovery of these animals. It would prevent federal authorities from requiring almost any kind of mitigation, establish a wholly unrealistic timeline for issuing these authorizations by creating a number of arbitrary deadlines, and require automatic approval of IHAs if certain deadlines are missed.

If the SEA Act becomes law, it will be significantly easier for seismic airgun surveys to be conducted, with less consideration of the impacts. This is a serious threat to species like the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most highly endangered whales on the planet. In April 2016, 28 scientists with expertise in the North Atlantic right whale biology wrote the previous Administration expressing their concern about potential seismic surveys in the Atlantic and concluded that “[t]he additional stress of widespread seismic airgun surveys may well represent a tipping point for the survival of this endangered whale, contributing significantly to a decline towards extinction.”

There are currently about 500 remaining individual North Atlantic right whales and the species is declining in number. In 2017, alone, there were 17 documented mortalities, an unprecedented level, which amounts to about 3% of the entire population. The decline in this species is attributed to the high levels of human activity occurring along the Atlantic Coast in both the U.S. and Canada, including fishing-gear entanglements and ship strikes. As species like the North Atlantic right whale face increasing threats, we should not be weakening the laws in place to protect them.

I urge you to oppose H.R. 3133 and to vote against it if comes to the House floor. Thank you for your consideration.

Kids of Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74

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