Yet in the early 1970s, the U.S. Department of Defense resisted legislation to protect whales and other marine mammals: they relied on sperm whale oil for use as a lubricant in submarines and other military engines, Roman's team writes.
In one curious part of the complex negotiations at the White House, Lee Talbot, a canny scientist working for Richard Nixon, produced an affidavit from the DuPont Corporation stating that they could produce an artificial lubricant that could do the same job as the whale oil. This helped make the Pentagon more receptive toward whale-protecting legislation. In October 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act passed. This victory was also a key step toward the passage of the more forceful (though less ecologically oriented) Endangered Species Act that passed the next year.
Under these two laws, "countless tens of thousands of individual whales, seals, and manatees have been protected from harm since 1972," the scientists write, "exactly as intended by those who crafted the legislation."
In 1994, major amendments to the MMPA established a new framework for dealing with interactions between marine mammals and commercial fisheries, "which remains perhaps the most important conservation issue facing these iconic animals," says Andrew Read.
This new framework, relies on "a negotiated rule-making process," Read says, looking for solutions to the incidental death of mammals in commercial fisheries. One of the strengths of the new process is that it "requires the direct involvement of fishermen, conservationists and scientists in the management process," Read says.
Still, some deeply depleted specie
|Contact: Joshua Brown|
University of Vermont