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Seven Penguin Species to Gain Protections under Endangered Species Act

Lawsuit Settlement Directs U. S. Government to List Penguins at Risk From Global Warming and Capture in Fishereries as Endangered or Threatened

SAN FRANCISCO— A federal judge today approved a legal settlement that requires the U. S. government to finalize protections for seven penguin species under the Endangered Species Act. The court-ordered settlement results from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) challenging the Obama administration’s failure to finalize its determination that these penguins warrant Endangered Species Act protection as threatened or endangered due to threats from climate change and commercial fisheries. See the settlement.

“Industrial fisheries and ocean warming are starving the penguins. Longlines and other destructive fishing gear entangle and drown them,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of TIRN. “Finally the government is throwing penguins a lifeline to recovery by protecting them under the Endangered Species Act.”

“Penguins are poster children for the devastating effects of climate change,” said Catherine Kilduff, a CBD attorney. “The Endangered Species Act provides a springboard for protecting penguins and our planet.”

The deadline for listing the seven species as endangered or threatened is as follows:

•    July 30, 2010 for the yellow-eyed penguin, white-flippered penguin, Fiordland crested penguin, Humboldt penguin, and erect-crested penguin
•    September 30, 2010 for the African penguin
•    January 28, 2011 for the Campbell Plateau portion of the range of the New Zealand/Australia Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the southern rockhopper penguin

Today’s settlement guarantees protections for the seven penguin species the Interior Department proposed for listing; CBD and TIRN also intend to file suit against Interior for denying protections to emperor and northern rockhopper penguins. Warming oceans, melting sea ice, and fishery harvests have wreaked havoc on penguins’ food supply: Krill, an essential nutrient for penguins, whales, and seals, has declined by up to 80 percent since the 1970s over large areas of the Southern Ocean.

In 2006, the Center filed a petition to list 12 penguin species under the Act. In December 2008, the Interior Department proposed listing seven of those penguins as threatened or endangered – African, Humboldt, yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fiordland crested, erect-crested, and a population of the southern rockhopper penguins – while denying listing to emperor and northern rockhopper penguins despite scientific evidence that they are also threatened by climate change and commercial fisheries.

The Endangered Species Act listing will protect penguins from multiple threats, raise awareness of their plight, and increase research funding. The Act also has a key role in managing greenhouse gas pollution by compelling federal agencies to analyze and reduce the impact of the emissions generated by their activities on listed species.

Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) is an environmental organization working to protect and restore endangered marine species and the marine environment on which we all depend. Headquartered in California, with offices in Texas and Costa Rica, TIRN is dedicated to swift and decisive action to protect and restore marine species and their habitats and to inspire people in communities all over the world to join us as active and vocal marine species advocates. For more information, visit www.SeaTurtles.org and www.TIRN.net

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. For more information on penguins, please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/penguins/index.html