Suit to Be Filed Over Delay in Protection for Penguins Hurt by Climate Change and Industrial Fisheries

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5301

Todd Steiner or Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590 x 103 or 104

Suit to Be Filed Over Delay in Protection for Penguins Hurt by Climate Change and Industrial Fisheries

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island
Restoration Network filed a formal notice today that they intend to sue the
Obama administration for illegally delaying protection of penguins under the
Endangered Species Act. The Department of the Interior failed to meet the
December 19, 2009 legal deadline to finalize the listings of seven penguin
species that are threatened by climate change and industrial fisheries. Until
the listings are finalized, these penguins will not receive the Endangered
Species Act protections they need to recover.

"While
sea ice melts away and the oceans warm, the Obama administration is frozen in
inaction. Instead of protecting penguins and taking meaningful steps to address
global warming," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for
Biological Diversity, "our government is dragging its feet while penguins
are marching toward extinction."

"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.

In 2006 the Center filed a petition to list 12 penguin
species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In December 2008, the Interior
Department proposed listing seven penguin species as threatened or endangered
- African, Humboldt, yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fiordland crested, and
erect-crested penguins and a few populations of the southern rockhopper penguin
- while denying listing to emperor and northern rockhopper penguins
despite scientific evidence that these penguins are threatened by climate
change.

While today's notice challenges the Interior
Department's illegal delay in finalizing the listing of seven penguin
species, the Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network also intend to file
suit against the Interior Department for unlawfully denying Endangered Species
Act protections to emperor and rockhopper penguins.

"So far the Obama administration has done even less
for penguins than Bush did," said Wolf. "Interior Secretary Salazar
seems unwilling to complete the final steps to protect some penguin species
started by the Bush administration, let alone correct the Bush
administration's illegal denial of protection to the emperor penguin.
Where's the change we were promised?"

Climate
change and industrial fisheries pose the primary threats to penguins, although
many species of these charismatic birds also face threats from oil pollution,
predators, and habitat destruction. Warming oceans and diminished sea ice have
wreaked havoc on penguin food availability. For example, 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
with the loss of sea ice. Less food has led to population declines in species
ranging from the southern rockhopper and Humboldt penguins of the islands off
South America to the African penguin in southern Africa.

Ocean
acidification, resulting from the ocean's absorption of human-produced
carbon dioxide, is expected to produce lethal conditions for key marine
organisms at the base of the Southern Ocean food web as early as 2030, which
will have cascading effects on penguins. Industrial fisheries that deplete the
penguins' food supply and entangle and drown the penguins in fishing gear
also pose a significant threat to these unique animals.

Listing
under the Endangered Species Act would provide broad protection to penguins
from a variety of threats, raise awareness of their urgent plight, and increase
research funding. Federal 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 penguins and to adopt
solutions to reduce emissions.

Protecting
penguins will require national and international action to slow climate change.
Leading climate scientists have concluded that the atmospheric CO2
level must be reduced to less than 350 parts per million to prevent dangerous
climate change and protect vulnerable species like penguins. Doing so will
require the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent or
more below 1990 levels by 2020. However, President Obama pledged an
insufficient 3-percent reduction in the Copenhagen Accord.

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

For
information on how penguins are harmed by climate change and on the importance
of reducing atmospheric CO2 to less than 350 parts per million, see
our "350 Reasons to Get to 350" Web page:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/climate_law_institute/350_reasons/index.html

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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.

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