This morning NRDC filed a petition under the Endangered Species Act to protect one of Hawaii's most imperiled species: the near-shore population of false killer whales. As my colleague Andrew wrote earlier, the listing petition has much to say about the plight of these animals: about their steep decline over the last 20 years, their dangerously small numbers, and the threats that continue to face them. But the petition also speaks volumes about the remarkable place they live.
America's 50th state is located in an unproductive part of the Central Pacific that provides relatively little food for sea life. Against this backdrop, the islands themselves are a kind of oasis. Species that otherwise spend their entire lives in open water, ranging widely over hundreds or thousands of miles, are attracted to the islands and have made Hawaii their home. And it's not just false killer whales. Spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, beaked whales, pilot whales - increasingly scientists are finding that so many of Hawaii's marine mammals, which were once thought to belong to basin-wide stocks, are actually full-time residents.
These local populations are part of what makes Hawaii such a unique place in the world for wildlife; they're also part of what makes it so vital to conserve. Hawaii's resident false killer whales are losing their food, getting hooked on fishing lines, and accumulating toxins at a rate that threatens their survival. Protecting them will go a long way towards protecting the islands' extraordinary marine environment.
Watch video of Hawaiian false killer whales here:
False Killer Whale Crittercam Video of the Hawaiian false killer whales
False Killer Whale Crittercam Additional video of the Hawaiian false killer whales