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For Immediate Release August 16th, 2005


Contact: Brent Plater (415) 436-9682 x

San Francisco, CA—The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal administrative petition with the Bush Administration to protect the North Pacific right whale as a separate species under the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s safety net for imperiled fish, wildlife and plants.

“The Right Whale was nearly hunted to extinction, and so it is our shared responsibility to insure that this species survives,” said Brent Plater of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We owe it to future generations to protect this special creature, and we can start by getting our regulations to match up with the science showing pacific right whales to be a separate species.”

Scientists have shown through genetic evidence that right whales in the North Pacific are a separate species from right whales in the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere. However, in January 2005 the Bush Administration rolled-back an attempt to make the regulations consistent with the scientific evidence by removing the North Pacific species, Eubalaena japonica, from the “list” of protected species under the Endangered Species Act, and replacing it with an outdated taxonomic classification that posits right whales in the North Atlantic and North Pacific are the same species. Today’s petition will insure that right whales in the Pacific receive uninterrupted Endangered Species Act protection while providing the whales with proper classification and status.

The petition comes on the heels of a significant court victory for right whales, ordering the Bush Administration to protect critical habitats for right whales in the Pacific. Today’s petition will not impact the critical habitat designation, but will prevent the Administration from arguing that because other species of right whale exist in the world it can provide less protection for right whales in the Pacific.

The North Pacific Right Whale is so rare that in the 1980s a sighting of a single individual was deemed worthy of publication in scientific journals. However, beginning in 1996 scientists began to see a congregation of Right Whales annually in the Bering Sea, and this past year scientists have found more Right Whales in this area than were found in the previous five years.

In light of these remarkable sightings, in 2000 the Center for Biological Diversity formally requested that NMFS protect the Right Whale’s “critical habitat” as required by the federal Endangered Species Act. However, NMFS refused to protect any habitat for the whale, even though the species’ critical summertime habitats had been found. The Center then requested that NMFS reconsider its determination, but the agency never responded to any of the Center’s requests. The Center was thus left with no choice but to initiate litigation in late 2004 to insure that the Right Whale’s recovery was not impeded.



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