Reduce the risks of extinction,
and recover marine protected species and the ecosystems on which
During the past century, marine
mammals, birds, turtles, fish, invertebrates, and other marine
species have been overhunted or overfished, causing extinction
or extreme population declines. Today, interactions with commercial
fishing operations, overharvest for international trade, and
degradation and loss of important feeding and nursery habitats
have depleted many marine species. As coastal and marine waters
have become increasingly polluted, many species have shown increases
in diseases, infections, and tumors. Combined with increased
disturbances from ship traffic, noise pollution, and other impacts,
the cumulative effects of these stresses have reduced many marine
species to extremely low levels and possible extinction. Specifically,
between 1975 and 1999, the number of marine species or stocks
listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species
Act increased from 20 to 61. Another 42 marine species or stocks
are currently considered candidates or are proposed for listing
under the Act.
There is serious concern for
the future of a number of marine species protected under the
Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered Species Act, including
Steller sea lions, North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales,
Hawaiian monk seals, West Indian manatees, southern sea otters,
and all six species of sea turtles. Destructive collecting practices
and unsustainable collection levels have also severely depleted
the populations of a number of species (e.g., seahorses and coral
reef species). And habitat destruction is probably leading to
the loss of less- studied marine organisms before they are even
identified, much less protected.
- There is a lack of information
on the population sizes and trends of marine wildlife, as well
as on the threats to marine wildlife.
- The lack of coordination,
especially in the international arena, reduces the effectiveness
of recovery and protection actions.
- Delays in addressing population
trends can dramatically increase the cost of recovery efforts.
- Increase research and monitoring
activities to provide information on populations of marine wildlife,
and threats and solutions to their decline.
- Develop and implement national
goals and coordinated action plans to recover marine protected
- Increase coordination with
tribes and states on research, recovery, and management of marine
- Address key existing and emerging
threats, including modification/ destruction of coastal and estuarine
seafloor ecosystems by fishing gear, coastal habitat destruction
resulting from shoreline protection efforts, and watercraft collisions
with marine mammals.
- Develop a coordinated policy
and action plan for dealing with interactions between the public
and expanding seal populations, the growth of marine aquaculture,
and the use and effectiveness of marine preserves.
- Develop solutions to safely
deter marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds from becoming
entangled in fishing gear; prevent incidental bycatch in commercial
fisheries; and reduce the impacts of ship traffic on marine mammals.
- Consider the impacts of marine
noise pollution on marine mammals, and develop solutions as appropriate.
- More effectively implement
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora, and improve cooperation with domestic and
international partners, including increased training and capacity
building for other countries.
For more information
Working with representatives
from the shipping and fishing industries, the federal government
developed an innovative system to protect the 300 remaining highly
endangered North Atlantic right whales. Large commercial ships
entering important right whale feeding and nursing grounds off
Cape Cod, Massachusetts and a large area near the Georgia/Florida
border must contact a U.S. Coast Guard-operated shore station.
The ships provide the station with their course, speed, location,
destination, and route, and the station responds with information
on local right whale sightings and procedures that may help prevent