The Natural Resources Defense Council stood up for a rare species of dolphins that live off the coast of Hawaii when it filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the National Marine Fisheries Service. The environmental group filed the lawsuit to force the government to decide whether it will add the dolphins to the endangered species list.
Called “false killer whales” the class of dolphin is found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide. A group of 150 to 170 live in the waters less than 90 miles off Hawaii.
Scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service determined the dolphins were at a high risk of becoming extinct within 75 years. In a 230-page report from the agency it was recommended to be put the dolphins on the endangered species list. That was 18 months ago and the agency has yet to make a final decision.
NRDC filed their lawsuit so the federal court will force the National Marine Fisheries Service to a final decision. The lawsuit comes six months after the government agency missed a statutory deadline. NRDC sees the move as the best way to save the false killer whale Hawaiian population.
“Every day that this listing is delayed is another day without steps being taken to protect them,” said Michael Jasny, a senior policy analyst for NRDC.
“Without federal protection, the whales (dolphins) are facing complete extinction within a generation. That fate is preventable if the Obama Administration acts swiftly.”
The false killer whales have suffered a significant decline over the last 25 years. The small population is at risk of being injured in fishing nets, losing the competition for food and exposure to pollution.
The dolphins like to eat ahi, mahimahi and ono, which are the same fish that commercial fishermen in the area catch. The mammals get caught in the nets and are hooked by fishermen that use fishing lines.
Studies showed that Hawaii’s fishing fleet accidently kills or injures an average of 7.4 false killer whales each year. The fisheries services proposed new rules for the industry that included the use of a different hook. Many fishing vessels have already started using the more humane hooks, even before the federal government formally adopted the policy.
NRDC is hopeful the lawsuit will push the National Marine Fisheries Service to make the decision to save the false killer whales. Jasny said, “It’s a no-brainer” to list the dolphins. “Saving them could go a long way towards preserving the remarkable marine oasis of which they are a part.”
Photo Credit: rjones0856