NRDC and Healthy Gulf are preparing a third lawsuit to save this majestic species.
The Gulf of Mexico whale is one of the most endangered marine mammals on earth, with only an estimated 33 individuals remaining. After two successful NRDC lawsuits, the whale is federally recognized as being at risk of extinction. But the Trump administration is at it again, blowing yet another deadline—this time, to designate critical habitat to protect the areas of the ocean that are necessary for the whale’s survival. So today, along with our partners at Healthy Gulf, we sent NMFS a letter stating that we are preparing a third lawsuit to save this majestic species.
We have already sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) twice to force it to comply with deadlines in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect the species. We were successful in both cases, but NMFS’s unlawful delays have added years to the ESA listing process for the species. “The people of the Gulf of Mexico have been asking for full federal protection for this critically endangered species for years,” says Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of Healthy Gulf. “Additional delays by the Trump administration are not acceptable.”
Our work to protect endangered species continues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Oil and gas activities still threaten the Gulf of Mexico whale. And the Trump administration is paving the way for more seismic testing and drilling, even during the current public health crisis. Last month, NMFS published a Biological Opinion admitting that the future oil and gas activities are “likely to jeopardize the continued existence” of the Gulf of Mexico whale. Yet the same agency is preparing to authorize a new proposal for seismic blasting in the Gulf that would result in a dangerously high incidence of harassment and injury to Gulf of Mexico whales, sperm whales, and other marine mammals.
It is shameful that the government is moving ahead with actions that will increase harm to these whales while at the same time unlawfully delaying compliance with the ESA.
We will hold the Trump administration accountable for protecting endangered species, no matter the circumstances. We hope that NMFS will designate critical habitat for the Gulf of Mexico whale within the next 60 days. Otherwise, we will take them to court.