Gulf of Mexico
Rice's whales breeches. NOAA

FL - Matt Gaetz wants endangered Rice's Whale protections removed

Congressman Matt Gaetz has his crosshairs on the world's most endangered marine mammal.

He wants to see to it that the U.S. Air Force is free to test its arsenal of weapons in the Gulf of Mexico waters where the 50 or so remaining Rice's Whales make their home. He has introduced legislation that would exempt the Air Force from provisions of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act "for certain activities that may result in the incidental take of Rice's Whale."

Incidental take is the term used to describe the unintentional harming or killing of a marine animal. The certain activities mentioned all involve firing live or inert munitions over the Gulf of Mexico.

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Gaetz, Florida's First District Congressman, made his pitch against saving the whales in March at a House Armed Services Committee meeting when he interrogated Gen. Glen VanHerk, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command.

With only a handful of his congressional colleagues present, Gaetz opened his comments to VanHerk by asking if he'd ever heard of Rice's Whale, to which the general responded he had not.

"I don't blame you," Gaetz responded. "There are only 51 of them, and until 2021 even the Rice's Whale didn't know it was a Rice's Whale. People thought it was a Byrde's Whale."

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