Feds Will Face Lawsuit for Denying Penguins Endangered Species Protections

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5301; cell (415) 385-5746
Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590 x 103

Feds Will Face Lawsuit for Denying Penguins Endangered Species Protections

Emperor Penguins March Toward Extinction As Global Warming Melts Habitat

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island
Restoration Network today notified the Department of the Interior of their
intent to file suit against the agency for denying necessary protections under
the Endangered Species Act for emperor and rockhopper penguins, despite clear
scientific evidence that the species are threatened by global warming. The
emperor penguin, the most ice-dependent of all penguin species, is threatened
by the loss of its sea-ice habitat as well as declining food availability
wrought by the warming ocean off Antarctica.
Just last month, scientists analyzing NASA data announced that ice melt in
western Antarctica has accelerated to profound levels and ice sheets are
shrinking much faster than predicted.

“Right
now penguins are marching toward 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.”

Today’s
notice challenges a decision made under the Bush administration that global
warming impacts are too “uncertain” to warrant protecting emperor
penguins. The notice also challenges denials of protection for northern
rockhopper penguin and all but a few populations of southern rockhopper
penguin. In 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to list
12 penguin species as threatened or endangered. The Interior Department
conducted status reviews for 10 of those species. After delays and ultimately a
court order, the agency proposed listing seven species but denied protection
for the remaining penguins, which are the subject of today’s notice.

The
emperor penguin colony at Pointe Geologie, featured in the Academy
Award-winning documentary March of the
Penguins, has declined by more than 50 percent, and scientists
predict that sea-ice loss due to climate change will push this colony to the
brink of extinction within this century. Another study concluded that 40
percent of the world’s emperor penguins will be in jeopardy from a
further temperature rise of 1.3 degrees Celsius, which the world will exceed
before mid-century on our current course. Warming ocean temperatures and
melting sea ice in the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica
have diminished the emperor and southern rockhopper penguins’ food
supply. Commercial fisheries are also a key threat to the penguins.

“Penguins
face a double whammy from the threats brought by climate change and industrial
fisheries that deplete the penguins’ food supply and entangle and drown
the penguins in longlines and other destructive fishing gear. They deserve
protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Todd Steiner,
executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Krill,
an essential food source not just for these 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 with the loss of sea ice. Additionally, ocean
acidification resulting from the ocean’s absorption of human-produced
carbon dioxide threatens all three penguin species. Scientists predict that
acidic ocean conditions may be lethal for key marine organisms at the base of the
Southern Ocean food web as early as 2030.

“If
the Obama administration is serious about restoring scientific integrity to
government decision-making, it will stand behind the sound science showing that
global warming is threatening the emperor penguin and protect this species
before it’s too late,” said Wolf.

Listing
under the Endangered Species Act would 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.

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

###

Turtle Island Restoration Network is an international marine conservation organization headquartered
in California whose 10,000 members work to protect sea
turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world.
For more information, visit www.SeaTurtles.org.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: