Monthly Archives: April 2010

Meet Puget Sound’s latest endangered species… Feds relent and protect local rockfish

SEATTLE POST GLOBE

Years of badgering the federal government to take steps to save Puget Sound rockfish from extinction have paid off for retired fish biologist Sam Wright.

The National Marine Fisheries Service today announced that it will do what Wright suggested: It will protect three populations of local rockfish from Puget Sound and connected inland marine  waters under the Endangered Species Act.

Canary and yelloweye rockfish now are deemed “threatened” and a third rockfish species – bocaccio – is now legally considered “endangered.” An endangered species is at high risk of extinction; a threatened species is vulnerable to extinction in the near future and in need of protection.

The fish have been caught at high levels, depleting their numbers. They’re often caught unintentionally by fishermen targeting other species, according to the Fisheries Service, and they’re hampered by environmental factors, such as degradation of their habitat near shore, pollution and lost fishing gear that continues to snare fish.

It’s just the latest feat for Wright. While other retirees spend major hours playing golf or the like, Wright has devoted a big chunk of his golden years trying to save fish from extinction.

He’s the guy who petitioned the government to protect Puget Sound steelhead — and was successful. Ditto for Puget Sound chinook.

Puget Sound is home to 14 species of rockfish, only five of which are found in abundance, Wright has said. That leaves nine species doing poorly in his eyes.

Rockfish – a long-lived, bottom-dwelling fish — mature and reproduce slowly, making them vulnerable to overfishing, according to the fisheries service.

No one knows how many rockfish exist. In Wright’s written request to the government (http://is.gd/ub7I ), he stated that at least 50,000 bocaccio, 15,608 canary rockfish and 8,761 yelloweye rockfish were caught during a 12-year period of 1975 to 1986. But he added that a state fish biologist since told the federal agency he has seen zero bococcio in the last two decades and the other two species have virtually disappeared.

“A fish population decline from 50,000 to zero should have been more than adequate proof of a legitimate problem,” Wright said.

Wright also hoped to secure protections to greenstriped and redstriped rockfish, but agency scientists said they’re at “low risk” of extinction.

Orcas remain the most famous critters protected under the Endangered Species Act. Chinook salmon, chum salmon, steelhead and bull trout also already are protected in Puget Sound under the act.

“The real critical problem for rockfish is they have very small home ranges, and most of these nine species have home ranges like 30- and 40-foot in diameter,” Wright told the PostGlobe after he filed his petition last year. “So what happens when you get to be in very low abundance is you can’t find mates for your own species. So, there’s no chance for reproduction when you can’t find a mate.”

“I’ve worked on these things for 45 years, and when I see something that’s obviously wrong to me, I’ve got to correct it. Really, as a private individual, really the only mechanism that you’ve got is the Endangered Species Act. That’s the only way you can actually make a difference,” Wright told the PostGlobe last year after he filed his petition. Sitting on advisory committees doesn’t do it. “I’ve been part of them for 45 years, and I haven’t accomplished anything that route.”

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Mangrove species may perish in a decade: global study

THE HINDU

KOLLAM: Several among the 70 known species of mangroves are at high risk of extinction and may disappear well before the next decade if protective measures are not enforced, warns the first global study by U.S. researchers.

Eleven of these have been placed on the red list of threatened species kept by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The study, led by Beth A. Polidoro attached to the Global Marine Species Assessment unit based at Old Dominion University, Virginia, shows that about 80 per cent of the mangrove areas in India and Southeast Asia have been lost over the past 60 years.

In India alone, over 40 per cent of the mangrove area on the west coast has been destroyed for aquaculture, agriculture, coastal development and urban development.

Disappearing at 2%-8%

The global mangrove area loss since 1980 stands at between 20 and 35 per cent. The areas are disappearing at 2-8 per cent per year and the rates are expected to continue unless mangrove forests are protected as a valuable resource, says the study recently published in PloS One, journal published by the Public Library of Science.

In addition, 40 per cent of the animal species that are restricted to mangrove habitat are at an elevated risk of extinction due to extensive habitat loss.

Given the accelerating rate of loss, mangrove forests may at least functionally disappear in around 100 years, the study states.

Mangrove forests are the economic foundations of many tropical regions providing at least $1.6 billion per year in ecosystem services worldwide.

It is also estimated that almost 80 per cent of the global fish catches are directly or indirectly dependent on mangroves. These are provided by mangroves, occupying only 0.12 per cent of the world’s total land area.

Implementation of conservation plans for mangroves have largely been done in the absence of species-specific information, says the study. Tree felling, aquaculture and overexploitation of fisheries in mangrove areas are expected to be the greatest threats to mangrove species over the next 10-15 years.

Unlike other forests, mangrove forests consist of a relatively few species with 30-40 in the most diverse sites. Another big threat to mangroves is climate change, says the study.

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WILDLIFE CORRIDOR CONSERVATION ACT INTRODUCED IN CELEBRATION OF EARTH DAY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Gary J. Taylor, Legislative Director

Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies

gtaylor@fishwildlife.org, (202) 624-1402

Jeff Parrish, Executive Director

Freedom to Roam

jparrish@freedomtoroam.org, (720) 289-4677

Washington, D.C., April 21, 2010 – U.S. Representatives Rush Holt (NJ-12) and Jared Polis (CO-2) introduced today the “Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act” that would identify and protect wildlife corridors on public and private lands. These corridors are needed to give wildlife the room they need to roam as they seek new habitat in response to climate change.

The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act comes on the heels of an April 16th Presidential Memorandum that defines a 21st century strategy for preserving America’s Great Outdoors and which also recognizes the importance of wildlife corridors and connectivity.

“It is vitally important that we identify and maintain habitat connectivity and migration corridors for fish and wildlife in response to the effects of climate change and other landscape level impacts on these critical resources. This bill will facilitate meaningful cooperative endeavors to this end between states, federal agencies, tribes, industry, and private landowners,” observed Gary Taylor, Legislative Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would create a national wildlife corridors information program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect and disseminate information among states and federal agencies about essential wildlife movement areas. It would also establish a Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund to provide grants to federal agencies, states, local governments, nonprofits, and corporations for the management and protection of essential wildlife corridors. Finally, it would require the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation to consider the preservation of these movement areas in their management plans. This legislation incorporates and builds on the wildlife habitat and corridors provisions of the Climate Change Safeguards for Natural Resources Conservation Act (H.R. 2192), sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva, and ultimately incorporated into the House-passed climate bill (H.R. 2454).

“The lives of the American people always have been interwoven with the movement of wildlife. Today, wildlife corridors are vital to the outdoor traditions that are a central part of our national character,” Holt said. “As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we recognize that protecting our planet entails protecting all of its inhabitants. Passing this legislation and preserving wildlife corridors would honor the ideals of Earth Day.”

“Wildlife corridors connect natural areas and allow animals to move, migrate, and adapt in a warmer, more crowded world, ” says Jeffrey Parrish, Executive Director of the Freedom to Roam Coalition, which represents a broad group of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. “Corridors also connect people to the outdoors, and ensure that all our citizens can hunt and fish, watch wildlife, and recreate while still developing our nation’s economy and addressing our energy challenges sustainably.”

Support for the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act includes the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Wildlife Federation, Freedom to Roam, the Society for Conservation Biology, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, the Wildlife Society, Wildlands Network, Sierra Club, the Humane Society, Conservation Northwest, American Wildlands, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, New Jersey Conservation, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Oregon Natural Desert Association, and the Western Environmental Law Center.

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Saving Hawaii’s rarest native plants from extinction takes ‘PEP’

PRESS RELEASE – via Hawaii 24/7

HONOLULU – Protecting Hawai‘i’s rarest native plants from extinction is the aim of a unique partnership known as the Plant Extinction Prevention (PEP) program, supported by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) along with numerous conservation partners who are working to provide Hawai‘i’s native plant populations with the resources to survive for generations to come.

The PEP Program is funded in part by DOFAW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state, federal and private funds, and focuses on plant species (known as “PEP” species) with fewer than 50 plants remaining in the wild.

In 2009, the PEP Program and its partners discovered new individuals or populations of 17 PEP species through surveys on all the main Hawaiian Islands. The hope-inspiring discovery of these “founder plants”– or naturally occurring wild plants — is important to the survival of the species. Having a complete picture of all known individual plants allows conservation botanists to plan their recovery actions in an informed way, increasing the species’ chances of recovery in the ecosystems to which they belong.

To protect these precious few plants from extinction PEP partners use fencing (to prevent damage from wild sheep, goats, cows and donkeys), weed control, propagule (seeds and cuttings) collection, and planting out in the wild.

The PEP program also completed propagule collection from a total of 89 PEP species in 2009. The propagules—fruit, cuttings, or seeds—are taken to off-site seed storage labs, tissue culture labs or partnering nurseries to preserve the genetic material of the founder plants and are used to reintroduce the species back into their natural habitat.

“We have seen precipitous declines of Hawai‘i’s biodiversity over the past 200 years because of loss of natural habitat to human uses, introduction of animal and weed pests, and diseases,” said Joan Yoshioka, Statewide PEP Coordinator.

“I’ve personally witnessed several plant extinctions in the past 20 years. It’s time to accept that we can and must do more to preserve the native Hawaiian biological treasures that have been placed in our care. The PEP Program, together with all its partners, is trying to do just that,” said Yoshioka.

Hawai‘i’s isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean results in extreme species diversity. Approximately 90 percent of Hawai‘i’s flora is endemic and found no where else in the world.

This richness in diversity represents 42 percent of all endangered plant species in the United States, the largest number of any state.

To preserve the biodiversity of these islands, PEP and DLNR will continue to work together to monitor and recover these rare species to ensure their survival and continued presence in Hawai‘i’s fragile ecosystems.

For more information on the PEP Program and how you can get involved visit www.pepphi.org

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Endangered wallaby gets international protection

ABC (Australia) NEWS

A big area of South Australia’s far north-west has been declared an Indigenous Protected Area to help protect the endangered black-footed rock wallaby.

The Federal Government has declared the section of the Aboriginal Lands using international guidelines.

Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett says it protects a diverse region of both mountains, with the Tomkinson and Mann ranges, and rolling sand dunes further south.

“Today’s declaration creates a significant conservation corridor of more than 12 million hectares across state borders,” he said.

The 580,000 hectares will be managed by Aboriginal people under a formal plan listed with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Community leader Kenneth Ken says the plan will provide jobs for local Aboriginal people.

“Young people do school in Adelaide, but they need something when back in the country,” he said.

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San Diego Butterfly Earns New Chance at Endangered Species Protection

For Immediate Release, April 5, 2010

Contact: Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318
David Hogan (author of listing petitions), (760) 809-9244

San Diego Butterfly Earns New Chance at Endangered Species Protection

SAN DIEGO, Calif.— Due to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that one of Southern California’s rarest butterflies, the Thorne’s hairstreak, warrants consideration as an endangered species. Imperiled by its limited range, the Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly exists in only one small area of Tecate cypress trees on Otay Mountain in San Diego County.

“Protection of this imperiled butterfly demonstrates that science must trump politics in wildlife protection,” said Jonathan Evans, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Listing under the Endangered Species Act will prompt recovery planning and efforts to bring this butterfly back from the brink of extinction.”

The remaining populations of the Thorne’s hairstreak are located inside the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Otay Mountain Wilderness. However, Otay Mountain’s native plant and animal communities have suffered from dozens of wildfires. During the 2003 Mine fire, roughly 68 percent of Thorne’s hairstreak habitat was lost.

Conservation groups have sought protection for the threatened butterfly for almost 20 years. First in 1991 and again in 2004, the San Diego Biodiversity Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, respectively, filed formal petitions with the federal government to protect the species.

Today’s decision was part of a legal settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service resulting from the Bush administration’s interference with agency science — which led to a previous agency decision not to consider the Thorne’s hairstreak for federal protection. Documents revealed that political inference had reversed the course of agency biologists, who had actually recommended further research into protection of the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.

“Past wildfires in San Diego county show that we could lose these beautiful creatures in one strong blaze,” said David Hogan, author of both scientific petitions to gain protection for the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. “Endangered Species Act protection provides a crucial safety net to protect these butterflies for future generations.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting comments on protection for the Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly for 60 days.

Background: The Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly

The Thorne’s hairstreak is a delicate butterfly with wings that range from reddish brown to mahogany brown with lavender overscaling. This butterfly has an extremely limited geographic range, existing in only one small area on Otay Mountain in San Diego County. This limited range is due, in part, to the limited distribution of its host plant, the Tecate cypress, upon which it depends.

The Thorne’s hairstreak has been recognized as unique and imperiled for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, the status of the Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly continues to deteriorate due to the increased threat of wildfire posed by an increasing human population and illegal migration across the Mexico border. Because of its limited distribution, one wildfire event could wipe the species off the planet. In fact, the 2003 wildfire event reduced the Thorne’s hairstreak occupied locations by half, from 10 to five. Prior to the 2003 wildfires, biologists estimated that about 400 Thorne’s hairstreak butterflies remained in about eight populations. After the fire, surveys turned up fewer than 100 individual butterflies in four to five locations.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Madagascar’s radiated tortoise on the verge of extinction

ONEINDIA

Washington, April 6 (ANI): Madagascar’s radiated tortoise may become extinct within two decades, courtesy hunting and the illegal pet trade, biologists have warned.

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Biologists from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently returned from field surveys in southern Madagascar’s spiny forest, where the once-abundant tortoises occur.

They found entire regions devoid of tortoises and spoke with local people who reported that armed bands of poachers had taken away truckloads of tortoises to supply open meat markets in towns such as Beloha and Tsihombe.

Poaching camps have been discovered with the remains of thousands of radiated tortoises, and truckloads of tortoise meat have been seized recently.

James Deutsch, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Africa Program, said: “Areas where scores of radiated tortoises could be seen just a few years ago have been poached clean.

“Back then one could hardly fathom that this beautiful tortoise could ever become endangered, but such is the world we live in, and things can – and do – change rapidly.”

Brian D. Horne, turtle conservation coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Species Program, said: “The rate of hunting of radiated tortoises is similar to the hunting pressure on American bison during the early 19th century, where they were nearly hunted to extinction when they once numbered in the tens of millions.”

Tortoise populations near urban centers have crashed with poachers moving closer and closer to protected areas; it is simply a matter of time before those areas are targeted too, the biologists predict.

Rick Hudson, president of the TSA, said: “Radiated tortoises are truly under siege now as never before, and if we can’t draw a line in the sand around protected areas, then we will lose this species.

“I can’t think of a tortoise species that has undergone a more rapid rate of decline in modern times, or a more drastic contraction in range, than the radiated tortoise. This is a crisis situation of the highest magnitude.”

Formerly occupying a vast swath of the southern portion of the island nation of Madagascar – the radiated tortoise was once considered one of the world’s most abundant tortoise species, with an estimated population in the millions.

Considered one of the most beautiful tortoise species, it is now ranked as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

One of the most troubling trends is that poachers are now entering protected areas (Special Reserves, National Parks, World Heritage Sites) to collect tortoises and the staff there are poorly equipped to patrol and protect populations.

The tortoise cannot survive the current threat of wholesale collection for food markets. Community mobilization linked to sustainable habitat protection is needed to save this unique ritically endangered species. (ANI)

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