Bush Administration Denies Endangered Species Act Protection for Emperor Penguin

For Immediate Release

Center for Biological Diversity
Contact: 

Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity, (951) 768-8301

Bush Administration Denies Endangered Species Act Protection for Emperor Penguin

Ice-Dependent Species Imperiled by Global Warming

SAN FRANCISCO - The Bush administration today denied protection for the emperor
penguin under the Endangered Species Act. The emperor penguin, the most
ice-dependant of all penguin species, is threatened by global warming
and the consequent loss of its sea-ice habitat, as well as declining
food availability wrought by the warming ocean off Antarctica. Today's
decision, made by the Department of the Interior in response to a
petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity , concluded
that global warming impacts were too "uncertain" to warrant protecting
the species. The Administration also denied protection for two other
penguin species, while proposing protection for seven other species.

"Right now penguins are marching towards extinction due to the impacts
of global warming," said Shaye Wolf, a seabird biologist with the
Center for Biological Diversity. "Protecting penguins under the
Endangered Species Act is an essential step toward saving them. For the
species proposed for listing, today's decision is an important step
forward. However, for the emperor penguin, it is a step closer to
extinction."

In today's decision, to be published
in Thursday's Federal Register, the African penguin, yellow-eyed
penguin, white-flippered penguin, Fiordland crested penguin, Humboldt
penguin, and erect-crested penguin were proposed for listing as
threatened species. The Administration also proposed listing of a
portion of the range of the southern rockhopper penguin. However, the
Interior Department denied listing for the majority of the range of the
southern rockhopper penguin, as well as for the northern rockhopper
penguin, macaroni penguin, and emperor penguin.

Abnormally warm ocean temperatures and diminished sea ice have wreaked
havoc on the penguins' foods supply. Less food has led to population
declines in penguin species ranging from the southern rockhopper and
Humboldt penguins of the islands off South America, and the African
penguin in southern Africa, to the emperor penguin in Antarctica. The
ocean conditions causing these declines have been linked by scientists
to global warming and are projected to intensify in the coming decades.

Krill, an essential food source not just for
penguins but also for whales and seals, has declined by as much as 80
percent since the 1970s over large areas of the Southern Ocean.
Scientists have linked the ocean conditions causing these declines to
global warming and loss of sea ice. The emperor penguin colony at
Pointe Geologie, featured in the film " March of the Penguins," has
declined by more than 50 percent due to global warming.

Many penguin species also are harmed by industrial fisheries, either
directly, such as when individual penguins are caught and killed in
trawls, nets and longlines; or indirectly, through the depletion of
essential prey species such as anchovy and krill. Overfishing by
industrial fishing fleets plays a prominent role in the hit movie
"Happy Feet," which features two of the species denied protection
today, the emperor and rockhopper penguins.

Listing under the Endangered Species Act will provide broad protection
to these penguins, including a requirement that federal agencies ensure
that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the U.S.
government will not "jeopardize the continued existence" of the penguin
species. For example, if penguins are listed, future approval of
fishing permits for U.S.-flagged vessels operating on the high seas
would require analysis and minimization of impacts on the listed
penguins. The Act also has an important role to play in reducing
greenhouse gas pollution by compelling federal agencies to look at the
impact of the emissions generated by their activities on listed species
and to adopt solutions to reduce them.

The Center
for Biological Diversity filed a petition in November 2006 to list 12
penguin species as threatened or endangered. Ultimately, the Department
of Interior initiated status reviews of 10 of 12 penguin species, but
only issued today's findings under court order. The agency has one year
to finalize the listing decision for the seven penguins proposed for
listing. The decision to deny protection for the emperor, rockhopper
and macaroni penguins can be challenged in court.

"Penguin populations are in jeopardy and we can't afford to further
delay protections," said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director at
the Center. "The denial of protection for the emperor penguin ignores
the science on global warming and ignores the law. We are confident it
will be overturned by either the courts or the new administration."

For more information on penguins and a link to the federal petition, please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/penguins/index.html

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