Washington D.C. — Conservation groups sued several Federal agencies today, after the Administration missed deadlines to list the Gulf of Mexico whale, a subspecies of the Bryde’s whale, as an endangered species. The Gulf of Mexico whale is one of the most endangered species on the planet, with fewer than fifty whales left.
“The Trump administration’s policies target the Gulf of Mexico whale for extinction,” said Zak Smith, senior attorney with the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC. “Every day these animals go unprotected from oil and gas development and other threats, we come that much closer to wiping them out. And when we lose them, we lose an important part of the Gulf’s unique natural heritage.”
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with Healthy Gulf, formerly Gulf Restoration Network, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Secretary of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), NMFS—the agency charged with protecting whales and other marine mammals—was required to take action within a year of publication of its proposed listing decision, which was December 8, 2016.
“It’s beyond comprehension that these Federal agencies will not take action to protect this population of Gulf whales that they admit were impacted by the BP drilling disaster and are at risk of extinction,” said Cyn Sarthou, executive director of Healthy Gulf. “These whales that are unique to the Gulf of Mexico need protection now.”
The Gulf of Mexico whale population, though once found throughout much of the northern Gulf, is now reduced to the upper waters of a single submarine canyon, lying largely off the Florida panhandle. The population faces a suite of threats in the Gulf of Mexico’s industrialized waters, as well as demographic, genetic, and other pressures that can drive small, range-limited populations to extinction.
NRDC and Healthy Gulf’s lawsuit seeks to compel the listing of the Gulf of Mexico whale as endangered pursuant to the ESA. Once the listing occurs, all of the protections found in the ESA, such as barring all harm that threatens the species’ extinction, will apply to the Gulf of Mexico whale, increasing its chances of surviving and thriving in the future.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 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.
Founded in 1994, Healthy Gulf, previously Gulf Restoration Network, is a nonprofit focused on empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico region.