A trio of U.S. conservation groups today petitioned the federal government to list the Taiwanese humpback dolphin under the Endangered Species Act（ESA） to help prevent the extinction of a population that now numbers fewer than 75 dolphins. The petition by theAnimal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Center for Biological Diversity, and WildEarth Guardians calls for the National Marine Fisheries Service to encourage Taiwan to address pollution, illegal fishing, boat traffic, and other threats this small dolphin faces in the shallow waters along Taiwan’s densely populated west coast.
“This small population of dolphins is in serious trouble,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI marine mammal scientist. “Once it disappears, it is gone forever. The U.S. should do everything it can, including listing it under the ESA, to prevent this from happening.”
The Taiwanese humpback dolphin, also known in Taiwan as Matsu’s fish, is a biologically and culturally important subspecies of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, and one of many small cetaceans around the world facing imminent extinction. In 2014, the Service denied a previous petition to list the Taiwanese humpback dolphin under the ESA, concluding that the population was not distinct from the Chinese white dolphin that swims in deeper waters closer to China’s coastline. New taxonomy studies, however, now conclude that the Taiwanese humpback dolphin is a distinct subspecies with unique characteristics whose numbers continue to decline to alarmingly low levels.
“The Taiwanese humpback dolphin is facing extinction unless we do something,” said Abel Valdivia, an ocean scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Small cetaceans around the world won’t survive without our help. We saw the baiji go extinct in China, and now the vaquita in Mexico and the Taiwanese humpback dolphin are barely hanging on.”
“Even though more than half of marine species may be at risk of extinction by 2100, only about 6 percent of species listed under the ESA are marine,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The Service needs to actively combat the current extinction crisis by quickly protecting species like the Taiwanese humpback dolphin.”
Protection under the ESA is an effective safety net for more than 99 percent of plants and animals protected by the law exist today. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006 if not for ESA protections. Listing species with global distributions can help focus U.S. resources toward enforcement of international regulations and recovery of the species.
Article by: Wild Earth Guardians