Thursday, August 19, 2010

Loggerheads need our help

Loggerhead sea turtles have long been victims of encroaching development, poaching and alarmingly frequent incidental take in fishing operations. Pacific loggerhead populations have declined at least 80 percent in just 25 years.

The BP Gulf spill further compounded the plight of the loggerheads, putting them at even greater risk. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) foreshadowed the crisis, writing in a book published four years prior to the spill that "one spill—if it occurred at just the wrong time and place—could be catastrophic to one of these endangered species. Sea turtles are likely to be at greatest risk from oil spills, for example, when they are gathering in a particular area to nest, right after hatching, and when foraging in ocean convergence zones."

The still ongoing effects of the BP spill are taking place in that "wrong time and place", leading to catastrophic impacts on loggerhead sea turtles and their hatchlings. As of August 23rd, 1055 sea turtles have been collected oiled or dead as a result of the spill. The total number of impacted turtles in unquestionably much higher.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering whether to up-list the loggerhead from threatened to endangered, thus granting enhanced conservation protections and resources. Reclassification would allow officials to better craft policies to ensure the ongoing presence of loggerheads on our coasts. This urgently needed help is contingent in part on public support.

NMFS is taking public comments on the proposal now. Please take action in support of reclassifying the status of loggerhead turtles today.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wolves Win

A US District Court federal judge in Montana issued a ruling last week directing that the Rocky Mountain gray wolf be returned to the endangered species list.

Judge Donald Molloy wrote in his decision that the Endangered Species Act requires that species such as the Northern Rockies gray wolf be treated as a whole population and not managed individually by states. In other words, if the species is considered endangered in Wyoming, it must be listed as such in Montana and Idaho. The wolves, he said, "must be listed or delisted as a distinct population and treated accordingly".

In overturning Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar's continuation of Bush era policy delisting the gray wolf, he wrote:
The Endangered Species Act does not allow the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list only part of a "species" as endangered, or to protect a listed distinct population segment only in part as the Final Rule here does; and the legislative history of the Endangered Species Act does not support the Service's new interpretation of the phrase "significant portion of its range." To the contrary it supports the historical view that the Service has always held, the Endangered Species Act does not allow a distinct population segment to be subdivided.
The Fish and Wildlife Service argued that wolf populations in Montana and Idaho had made significant progress since the wolf was listed in 1974 after nearly being eradicated from the West. Wyoming, it said, had not yet successfully restored the species to a stable level. In addressing the differentiation, Judge Molloy wrote, "The listing depends on when a species is endangered in all or in a significant portion of its range. Defendants' reasoning is like saying an orange is an orange only when it is hanging on a tree".

The immediate effect of the ruling is the cessation of hunting seasons on Rocky Mountain gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. Hunting in Idaho was to begin as early as August 30th with a planned quota of 220 wolves. Idaho had intended to allow the use of "trapping and electronic calls" in it's hunt. Montana had planned to kill up to 185 wolves, twice as many as the previous year, starting September 4th.

The following is a statement by Endangered Species Coalition's Northern Rockies Field Representative Derek Goldman:
The Endangered Species Coalition has long argued that the political, piece-meal removal of protections for wolves and other species is illegal and undermines the intent of the Endangered Species Act—to conserve and restore our disappearing wildlife and ecosystems. We hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goes back to the drawing board and writes a rule that complies with the intent of the law, so that Americans can truly celebrate this remarkable achievement in wildlife restoration.
Those who wanted to hunt wolves in Idaho and Montana this year have every right to be angry at Wyoming. Wyoming has made no attempt whatsoever to seriously engage in wolf management, and as the ruling makes clear, the USFWS cannot remove protections for only part of a wildlife population.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Green Sea Turtles Fighting to Survive

As part of our efforts to raise awareness of the increasingly disastrous effects of the BP Oil spill on Gulf wildlife, we're profiling several Gulf species that are threatened or endangered. Today we'll have a look at the green sea turtle.

Green sea turtles are
endangered along their breeding grounds in Florida and along the Pacific coast of Mexico, other populations are listed as threatened. The green sea turtle is in decline largely due to poaching for their eggs, meat, and shells and becoming entangled in shrimp nets and other fishing equipment. They're further disturbed by development related habitat loss in their nesting areas and associated artificial lighting. Hatchlings attempting to make their way to the ocean by seeking the bright horizon become confused by street lights and electronic signs, leading them astray and away from the ocean waters.

Green sea turtles spend their lives in three different habitats: oceanic beaches for nesting, convergence zones in the open ocean, and feeding grounds in coastal areas. Each sea turtle has unique facial markings, similar to human fingerprints. They can swim remarkably long distances, sometimes migrating up to 1400 miles between their feeding grounds and nesting site. They can live for up to 80 years, grow to a maximum size of about 4 feet and weigh up to 440 pounds. Adults are unique among sea turtles in that they're herbivores and rely on sea grass and algae to survive.

Their diet, range and habitat are making them unfortunately vulnerable to the oil fouled waters and coasts of the Gulf. As of July 30th, 498 deceased sea turtles had been collected by USFWS in the Gulf region, many of them green sea turtles. Until a recent court settlement, BP had been burning them alive in their efforts to dispose of the errant oil. They continue to swim amid the oil and dispersants still at sea and consume grass and algae that's in some cases oil coated.

You can take action to help green sea turtles and other endangered Gulf wildlife on our oil spill
action page. Find more ways you can help protect endangered species from oil spill impacts here.