Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Will One of the World's Most Endangered Whales Be Saved Before It’s Too Late?

Animals
Will One of the World's Most Endangered Whales Be Saved Before It’s Too Late?

Conservationists took legal action this week to get protection for one of the most endangered species of whales on Earth.

The whales in question are a a genetically distinct population of Bryde’s whales who were only recently discovered. Bryde’s whales can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, but these whales are year-round residents of the Gulf of Mexico who live mainly in the DeSoto Canyon, off the Florida panhandle.

Conservationists took legal action this week to get protection for one of the most endangered species of whales on earth. Photo credit: Thinkstock

Genetic testing conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center recently concluded these whales are a genetically distinct subspecies, if not an entirely new species altogether. In addition to being genetically unique, they also have a distinctive song unlike the calls of other Bryde’s whales and are the only baleen whales living in the Gulf.

Unfortunately, at the time of their discovery the best estimate of their population put their number at fewer than 50 individuals, which raised concerns that they are one of the most endangered whales on earth who will likely disappear entirely without intervention.

In 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) took action on their behalf and petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to have them listed under the Endangered Species Act, arguing they face a slew of threats putting them at serious risk of extinction.

“This is a unique group of whales, different from all others of its kind and it’s threatened six ways to Sunday,” Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project and lead author of the petition, said at the time. “An Endangered Species listing would bring a recovery plan and the resources needed to save these animals … they just can’t make it in the Gulf if we don’t help them out.”

Not only are they isolated with little genetic diversity, but they face a host of problems from human activity that range from noise and organic pollution and being hit by ships to disturbances from energy exploration and living with the toxic aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Last year, samples taken from a Bryde’s whale in the area found a buildup of two metals, chromium and nickel, which raised yet more concerns for them because their calves are particularly vulnerable to toxic buildup that is passed on by their mothers when they’re pregnant and nursing.

Things were looking up last year after the National Marine Fisheries Service finally agreed that they need endangered species protection, which would lead to the development of a recovery plan and designation of critical habitat, but the agency has yet to take action on their behalf and it’s gone well beyond the timeframe legally allowed.

This week, the NRDC took legal action to speed things up, which will hopefully compel federal officials to enact protection for these whales before it’s too late to save them.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Video of Drunken Rampage + $15k Reward = 3 Men Identified as the Culprits for Killing the World’s Rarest Fish

USDA: Beekeepers Lost 44% of Honey Bee Colonies Last Year

5 Incredible Species That Glow in the Dark

Huge Win for the Oregon Spotted Frog

One of the beavers released into England's Somerset county this January, which has now helped build the area's first dam in more than 400 years. Ben Birchall / PA Images via Getty Images

England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Australia's dingo fences, built to protect livestock from wild dogs, stretch for thousands of miles. Marian Deschain / Wikimedia

By Alex McInturff, Christine Wilkinson and Wenjing Xu

What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet's fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hopi blue corn is being affected by climate change. Abrahami / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.

Read More Show Less
Pollution on the Ganges River. Kaushik Ghosh / Moment Open / Getty Images

The most polluted river in the world continues to be exploited through fishing practices that threaten endangered wildlife, new research shows.

Read More Show Less
Oil spills, such as the one in Mauritius in August 2020, could soon be among the ecological crimes considered ecocide. - / AFP / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

An expert panel of top international and environmental lawyers have begun working this month on a legal definition of "ecocide" with the goal of making mass ecological damage an enforceable international crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Read More Show Less