Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 17, 2023


Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960,

Sen. Schumer Wins 2022 Rubber Dodo Award

WASHINGTON— Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer won the Center for Biological Diversity’s Rubber Dodo award today for inserting a last-minute rider into the 2023 omnibus budget bill that potentially condemns the North Atlantic right whale to extinction.

The annual award is given by the Center for Biological Diversity to a person or a group who has aggressively sought to drive endangered species extinct or destroy America’s natural heritage.

With a declining population of 340 individuals, including just 70 breeding females, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered cetaceans. Schumer’s rider exempts the lobster fishery from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act until 2028, allowing right whales to be entangled and drowned in lobster gear with impunity.

“Ripping away protections for the Atlantic right whale is one of the gravest environmental errors ever made by Congress. It’s deeply unfortunate that Sen. Schumer turned his back on this magnificent species,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “Fifty years ago, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and made a bedrock commitment to protect our irreplaceable natural heritage. I’m deeply saddened that Sen. Schumer believes this commitment should be violated when it’s politically expedient to do so.”

Sen. Schumer won the Rubber Dodo award after an online contest in which thousands cast their votes. Other nominees were outgoing Arizona governor Doug Ducey, the California Independent Petroleum Association and the Plastics Industry Association.

Despite false claims from the lobster industry, the lobster fishery is killing Atlantic right whales at nearly six times the level that the remaining population can sustain. Because the vast majority of right whale entanglements are never observed and because the industry fought efforts to require comprehensive gear-markings, it is difficult to prove the full extent of the damage that this fishery causes to right whales.

Similar to the fossil fuel industry’s attempt to deny climate change, the lobster fishery and politicians in Maine have argued that additional restrictions on lobster fishing are not justified because of lack of sufficient scientific evidence.

“It’s not only foolish for Congress to ignore the best science, the courts’ judgement and the conservation challenges facing this whale, it’s a dereliction of duty,” said Suckling. “If we lose right whales, they’ll be gone forever. Let’s hope that Sen. Schumer recognizes his error and does everything in his power to fix his mistake and ensure that right whales continue to swim up and down the Atlantic coastline for generations to come.”

Previous Rubber Dodo award winners include Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (2019), President Donald Trump (2018), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (2017), Rep. Rob Bishop (2016), Monsanto (2015), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services (2014), the Koch brothers (2013), climate denier Senator James Inhofe (2012), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2011), former BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010), massive land speculator Michael Winer (2009), Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008) and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne (2007).

Background on the Dodo

In 1598 Dutch sailors landing on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius discovered a flightless, 3-foot-tall, extraordinarily friendly bird. Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. (Contemporary scientists use the less defamatory Raphus cucullatus.) To the rest of the world, it's the dodo — possibly the most famous extinct species on Earth after the dinosaurs.

The dodo evolved over millions of years with no natural predators and eventually lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.

The bird’s trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681 the dodo had vanished, hunted and outcompeted by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover while pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.

The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe).

The dodo’s reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naiveté and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The animal's reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were likely produced by overfeeding captive birds.

Photo courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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