By Matthew Tresaugue
The Gulf of Mexico's sperm whales do not warrant a separate listing under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government concluded this week after nine months of study.
The National Marine Fisheries Service said the population does not meet the requirements to be considered distinct from other sperm whales, which in general already receive protections as an endangered species.
The finding comes in response to a petition by WildEarth Guardians. The New Mexico-based environmental group argued that the Gulf's year-round population of 1,300 sperm whales is genetically different than those found in other oceans and faces unique threats because of oil and gas development and a low-oxygen dead zone caused by runoff from the Mississippi River.