Endangered Whales in the Gulf of Mexico Finally Get the Protection They Need

After years of waiting, conservationists are celebrating a big win for one of the most endangered whales on earth who have finally been given federal protection.

The whales in question are a genetically distinct subspecies of Bryde’s whales. They once ranged throughout the Gulf of Mexico, but now they can only be found in the DeSoto Canyon, off the Florida panhandle.

Other populations of Bryde’s whales can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, but these whales are non-migratory and live solely in the Gulf. They’re the only resident baleen whales living there, who fill an important ecological niche, but they’re also extremely rare, and increasingly threatened by us.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it’s estimated there are now fewer than 100 individuals left in existence, while other estimates put their numbers far lower.

Sadly, officials have acknowledged that they face 29 separate threats to their survival, including energy exploration and development, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, noise from seismic surveys, military activities and oil spills and cleanup efforts. The toxic aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill alone is estimated to have reduced their population by 22 percent. And they may not be able to withstand another disaster like that.

The man-made threats to their survival are also being compounded by a small range, small population size, a lack of genetic diversity, while they’re also vulnerable to climate change.

NOAA proposed listing them in 2016 in response to a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) two years earlier, but even though it had one year to finalize the decision, the Trump Administration delayed action. In February, the NRDC, along with Healthy Gulf, formerly known as the Gulf Restoration Network, sued to compel the agency to protect them.

Now they’re celebrating a huge win for these imperiled whales. NOAA has officially protected them as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Great news! After years of delay, the National Marine Fisheries Service finally listed the Gulf of Mexico whale as…

Posted by NRDC on Friday, April 12, 2019

“Even with this administration’s record on endangered species, the need to list the Gulf of Mexico whale was undeniable,” said Zak Smith, senior attorney with the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC. “This species now has a fighting chance for survival and to rebound from the brink of extinction.”

According to NOAA, among other measures, the listing will lead to the development of a recovery plan, and hopefully the designation of critical habitat, which could protect them from oil and gas leaks in the future, in addition to restricting other activities that could harm these whales.

“This is one of the most endangered marine mammal populations in the world,” said Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “Survival of the species depends upon applying the full protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act.”

Hopefully the listing will help stem the slew of threats these whales and other marine life face in our increasingly industrialized oceans and put them on a path to recovery.

Photo credit: NOAA

69 comments

Angela K
Angela K27 days ago

Petition already signed & shared

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Michael F
Michael Friedmannabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

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Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a month ago

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Richard B
Richard Babout a month ago

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Leo C
Leo Cabout a month ago

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danii p
danii pabout a month ago

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danii p
danii pabout a month ago

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danii p
danii pabout a month ago

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