By Carey L. Biron
Environmentalists on Monday filed a petition with the U.S. government requesting regulatory safeguards for 81 particularly vulnerable marine wildlife species, from corals to sharks.
According to WildEarth Guardians, a conservation watchdog, U.S. officials have failed to protect ocean-dwelling species at anywhere near the rate received by animals that live on land, despite legislative and executive mandates to do so. More importantly, the group suggests, the relevant science does not support such a disparity.
For decades the United States has had federal legislation, known as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), in place to offer protections to those plants and animals officially deemed in danger of extinction. According to figures provided by WildEarth Guardians, the ESA has officially protected 2,097 species since its enactment in 1973.
Yet just 94 of these have lived in the oceans and seas. The petition’s list would thus nearly double the marine species receiving federal protection.
“To date the U.S. has largely failed to protect marine species under the ESA,” WildEarth Guardians stated Monday. “[This new petition\ aims to begin righting this imbalance, which does not reflect the scientific reality of species at risk of extinction. The petition demonstrates that threats to marine species are no less dire or diverse than those jeopardising terrestrial species.”
The group says it wants to use the petition, listing only species that have been deemed endangered or critically endangered by widely recognised international scientific groups, to “jumpstart” the national discussion on this disparity and, more broadly, on the increasingly perilous state of marine wildlife and ecosystems. More....