Posted on 06 October 2010.
On March 23, 2010, scientists witnessed an endangered right whale giving birth. It was only the second time a right whale's birth has been seen and studied. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)
BREAKING: The National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that it will revise critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species that clings to survival with less than 400 individuals remaining.
The action comes in response to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year by The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
The lawsuit challenged the agency’s failure to respond to the groups’ August 2009 petition, which sought to expand current critical habitat protections because areas located off the coast of New England and the Georgia/Florida border are inadequate to provide for the recovery of the whales. The government’s announcement today confirmed that the need to expand protected areas and indicated that the agency will propose new boundaries next year.
Sierra Weaver, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife said, “Critical habitat ensures precautions are taken when potentially dangerous activities like oil drilling and commercial shipping are being planned and carried out. Because these animals share our busy Atlantic Coastal waters, we need to make sure that risky activities in the places they call home aren’t going to hinder their ability to return to a sustainable population.”
- Right whales migrate from their calving grounds off the Southeastern U.S. to their feeding grounds off the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. Adult female right whales reproduce slowly – reaching reproductive maturity at around age 8 and giving birth to one calf every four years.
- The only known calving ground for North Atlantic right whales is off the coast of Georgia and Florida, with documented births outside of the area currently designated as critical habitat. In 2008, 18 of 19 newborn calves documented were in areas just outside of the protected area.
- Each year female right whales die from being hit by ships or entanglement in commercial fishing gear in unprotected areas. In one 18 month period, three pregnant females and their full-term young died after being hit by ships outside of their critical habitat.
Click here to read the full release.
See how Defenders is working to protect the critically endangered right whale.
Posted in Features, Marine Animals, Northeast, Press Releases, Southeast
Posted on 17 August 2010.
Join Defenders of Wildlife board member Jeff Corwin as he continues to document how the Gulf oil disaster will impact wildlife in the region. In this Nightly News piece with MSNBC’s Brian Williams, Jeff dives right in to check on the health of the largest fish on the planet: the whale shark.
They may be large (growing up to 40 feet in length!), but whale sharks are gentle giants, feeding mostly on plankton filtered through their enormous mouths. Feeding at the base of the food chain, they are at great risk in a still oil-stricken Gulf. However, the sharks are also a great indicator species for the health of the entire Gulf ecosystem. By affixing tracking devices to their fins, researchers can follow the fish and the depth at which they swim.
“Now that this whale shark has been fitted with transmitters, we’ll now know if it’s coming into harm’s way.” Jeff explains from the water.
Posted in Features, Offshore Drilling, Southeast, Video
Posted on 17 July 2010.
We are close to the vast array of rigs and support ships here at the Deepwater Horizon spill site. We navigate the Nancy Foster carefully around our various sampling stations. Much of the day we wait on local shipping controllers before moving to another station, occasionally to within a few miles of the well head itself.
Our research mission had two primary objectives. One objective was to study the Far Field to understand how ocean currents transport the spilled oil. A second objective, and no less important, was to test water samples at depth to see if accelerated bacterial feeding caused by these huge volumes of spilled oil depletes oxygen so essential to marine life. We had received special permission to sample at great depths extremely close to the spill site, a task we also shared with NOAA research vessel Pisces. Read the full story
Posted in Features, Offshore Drilling, Southeast
Posted on 15 June 2010.
Sperm whales, which can weigh up to 60 tons and reach 60 feet in length, reside year-round in the Gulf of Mexico. Their strong attraction to specific areas for breeding and feeding may override any tendency for them to avoid noxious oil, and several whales have already been spotted swimming through oily, contaminated waters. Inhalation of oil droplets, vapors and fumes is only one of the serious risks posed to sperm whales by oil spills. With a population already depleted from a long-history of being hunted for their oil, this leviathan can’t afford losses from the oil that continues to gush into Gulf waters.
Read our factsheet to learn more about how sperm whales may be affected by the ongoing Gulf oil disaster.
Posted in Experts, Offshore Drilling, Southeast
Posted on 25 May 2010.
Today, Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center notified BP that they would file suit against the company for the unauthorized take of endangered species caused by the continuing oil spill and use of dispersants. The oil gushing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig directly imperils 32 threatened or endangered species such as the sperm whale, gulf sturgeon, manatee and five kinds of sea turtles (leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and Kemp’s ridley), as well as the waters, coastal wetlands and National Wildlife Refuges that many of these species call home. Endangered species are also adversely affected by the chemical dispersants BP has applied to the Gulf in response to the continued release of oil resulting from the Deepwater Horizon blowout.
Mike Senatore, vice president for Conservation Law at Defenders of Wildlife said, “BP must be held accountable for the grave threat posed to sea turtles, whales, seabirds and other endangered wildlife as the result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Not only does the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico pose an immediate and long-term threat to endangered wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, but the company’s unprecedented application of chemical dispersants poses additional risks.”
Read the full release.
Posted in Marine Animals, Offshore Drilling, Press Releases, Southeast
Posted on 05 May 2010.
Osprey at Bon Secour NWR (Krista Schlyer)
My Eyewitness News: “Oil spill will not only affect local bird populations but could impact migratory birds from South America all the way to Alaska” LINK
Brian Skoloff and John Flesher from the Associated Press: “Oil spill couldn’t have come at a worse time of year as many of the most vulnerable species living here are nursing their young” LINK
Robert Lee Holtz from Wall Street Journal: “Long term studies have shown that oil will still be effecting wildlife in spill zones 10 to 20 years later” LINK
Michael Jasny of NRDC: “Marine mammals in the Gulf will be hit hard as they breathe toxic fumes when they surface and feed on tainted fish” LINK
PR Newswire: “Gulf oil spill could destroy most productive fishery in the world” LINK
Julia Kumari Drapkin for CBS: “Looking at the 10 most at risk animals that will be impacted from the oil spill” LINK
The Daily Comet: “As many as 400 species could be impacted by the oil spill. Predominant among them is birds.” LINK
Julie Cart for Los Angeles Times: “Wildlife from 20 refuges along 400 miles of coast are in danger.” LINK
Leslie Kaufman for the New York Times: “Starting with plankton, animals will be effected the entire way up the food chain.” LINK
Posted in In the News