WASHINGTON (December 8, 2016) — A unique group of whales native to the Gulf of Mexico is one step closer to Endangered Species Act protections. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today released their proposed listing for the Bryde’s (pronounced BROO-dus) whale, saying: “we believe that the species faces a high risk of extinction.”
The subspecies in the Gulf is genetically unique and has fewer than 50 individuals remaining, limited to habitat in the DeSoto Canyon, off the Florida panhandle.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in September 2014, citing the small population, limited habitat, and numerous potential threats in the Gulf’s highly industrialized waters, including: collisions with ships, deafening ocean noise from oil and gas activity, and pollution from the Deepwater Horizon spill and other sources. NMFS’ proposal lists the small population size and energy exploration as “high” threats and says “a regional cooperative effort to protect and restore the population is necessary.”
Following is a statement from Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project:
“This subspecies of Bryde’s whale, found only in the Gulf of Mexico, will not survive without a concerted effort. An Endangered Species listing compels action and provides a plan to give these whales the best chance to endure. It’s going to be a challenge to keep them from going extinct, even with these protections. But this is a huge – and critically necessary – step forward to save these whales.”
Named after Norwegian commercial whaling pioneer Johan Bryde, these baleen whales are closely related to blue and humpback whales. The 35- to 50-foot marine mammals can be found in warm waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While not targets of commercial whaling operations, the whales face huge threats in the Gulf, including ship strikes, toxic pollution, and noise from seismic airgun surveys for oil and gas. Known for spectacular feeding behaviors, which involve lunging mouth agape through schools of fish and krill, Bryde’s whales have a diverse diet that allows them to find food and stay in the Gulf’s waters all year long.
- Endangered Species Status Can't Come Soon Enough for Gulf of Mexico Bryde's Whale, by Giulia Good Stefani, April 2016
- NRDC Petitions to List Endangered Gulf Whale, by Michael Jasny, September 2014
- Unique and endangered: Why we need to protect the Gulf of Mexico’s Bryde’s whales now by Sylvia Fallon, September 2014
- National Geographic published stunning photos of Bryde’s whales near Baja Mexico that illustrate the species’ highly athletic feeding strategies (additional photos available on NOAA Fisheries’ and Arkive websites)
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.