One of my favorite conservation success stories happened in the ocean.
In my home state of California—southern sea otters were hunted to near extinction for their fur coats in the early 1900’s. But miraculously, a small population of fifty animals survived, hidden from hunters on the Big Sur Coast. They were placed on the Endangered Species list in 1977, and this small population has made an unbelievable comeback.
The Nassau grouper can be found all over the Americas, but it’s facing extinction in nearly all of its habitats. After years of hard work and outreach, the U.S. government is stepping up to the plate to help this critically important species. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced that the Nassau grouper will be protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.
Nassau grouper are large reef dwelling fish, historically found in the Western North Atlantic from Bermuda, Florida, Bahamas, Yucatan Peninsula, and throughout the Caribbean to southern Brazil, including coral reef habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. However, the species is imperiled due to human exploitation and inadequate regulatory protection. The primary threat to Nassau grouper is overfishing from gill nets, long-lines, bottom trawls, and other fishing activities, both intentionally and as by-catch. Despite a fishing ban in U.S. waters for decades, Nassau grouper are commercially extinct in the U.S.
Happy Shark Week! We have some shark news to share with you — help is on the way for scalloped hammerhead sharks! Will you join us in thanking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for helping these sharks by granting them protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The tan color on this map shows the range of sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico. The colored areas show the chance of sperm whales utilizing this habitat, with red being the highest.
Not quite a new species, but the population of sperm whales in the Gulf is distinctly different from their relatives. So different that last week, in response to a petition from WildEarth Guardians, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it will be taking a closer look at sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico in order to determine if they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Sperm whales across the world are already listed as an endangered species, but this new designation will recognize the Gulf population as a distinct group and protect and monitor it separately from the global population.
There are characteristics of sperm whales in the Gulf that may be sufficient to classify them as a distinct group. Gulf sperm whales do not leave the Gulf and are generally smaller and use different vocalizations (probably learned culturally) than other sperm whales. Gulf sperm whales also face Gulf-specific threats such as oil and gas development, high levels of shipping traffic and noise, potential effects from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and water quality degradation near the mouth of the Mississippi River. As shown on the map above, the area southeast of the Mississippi River Delta is important for sperm whales. The outflow of nutrients from the river, upwelling along the continental slope and eddies from Gulf currents create unique ecological conditions that make this a productive area where sperm whales go to find food and potentially mates.
Remember, wildlife like this Nazca booby will be watching you, too! Credit: Glory L. Moore
One of my happiest family memories comes from a trip when my son was six years old. We arrived at a popular bay on the big island of Hawaii known for its plentiful green sea turtles. I’ll never forget the look on his small face when he popped up out of the water, pulled his mask off, and said in astonishment, “Mom! A turtle just swam along right next to me!”
Being a conscientious little dude, he got a bit worried, because signs on the beach warned visitors to keep their distance from the sea turtles, listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
We tried our best, but several glided right up to peer at us when we hovered motionless in the water. We’ll always cherish the rare thrill of being so close to wild things in the ocean. But did we do the right thing?
When you’re viewing wildlife – and wildlife is viewing you – following specific guidelines will ensure that you have a terrific experience. Continue reading »