Protection Sought for Endangered Taiwanese Humpback Dolphin

09 March 2016 | Center for Biological Diversity News Release

WASHINGTON— Three U.S. conservation groups petitioned the federal government today to protect Taiwanese humpback dolphins under the Endangered Species Act to help prevent the extinction of a population that now numbers fewer than 75. The petition, from the Animal 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 these small dolphins face 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 protect the Taiwanese humpback dolphin under the Endangered Species Act, 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, 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 could vanish within our lifetimes if help doesn’t very come soon,” said Dr. Abel Valdivia, an ocean scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sadly, small cetaceans around the world are in trouble. 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 at WildEarth Guardians. “The Service needs to actively combat the current extinction crisis by quickly protecting species like the Taiwanese humpback dolphin.”

The Endangered Species Act is an effective safety net for imperiled species: Extinction has been prevented for more than 90 percent of plants and animals under its care. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006 if not for the Act’s protections. Protecting species with global distributions can help focus U.S. resources toward enforcement of international regulations and recovery of the species.

Learn more at www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Taiwanese_humpback_dolphin/.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit conservation organization that protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. The organization is working towards Endangered Species Act protections for diverse marine species through its Wild Oceans campaign.

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

Contacts: Abel Valdivia, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7111, avaldivia@biologicaldiversity.org
Taylor Jones, WildEarth Guardians, (720) 443-2615, tjones@wildearthguardians.org
Amey Owen, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 446-2128, amey@awionline.org

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