For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301

Lawsuit Seeks Overdue Protection for Declining California Seabird

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today challenging the Interior Department's denial of Endangered Species Act protection for the ashy storm petrel, a California seabird that's been in steep decline in recent decades. Known as the "water walker" for the way it delicately patters across the ocean surface as it hovers while searching for food, this seabird is under severe threat from predation, pollution, oil spills and climate change.

"Imperiled species like the ashy storm petrel can't afford more delays from the Interior Department. The longer they have to wait for the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, the greater the odds they're moving toward extinction," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center.

The ashy storm petrel is a small, smoke-gray seabird that nests and forages almost exclusively on the offshore islands and waters of California near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. In the face of ongoing threats, this seabird has already been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and BirdLife International. The Center submitted a scientific petition in 2007 to list the ashy storm petrel under the Endangered Species Act.

The Interior Department denied Endangered Species Act protection to the storm petrel in August 2009, overturning recommendations from its own scientists who concluded the seabird merited protection. The Department also wrongly claimed that the ashy storm petrel was increasing and ignored a study documenting a 76-percent decline in at-sea abundance over the past 22 years.

In response to a Center letter detailing these failings, Interior has indicated that it plans to reevaluate its 2009 decision. With today's lawsuit, the Center is seeking a binding commitment from Interior to revise its flawed analysis and complete a new decision by a firm deadline.

"If the Interior Department were doing its job, it would have granted the ashy storm petrel Endangered Species Act protection years ago," said Wolf. "We are going to court to ensure this seabird doesn't have to wait any longer."

The petition and more information on the ashy storm petrel are available at


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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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