No. 324, November 21, 2002

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THE GODS OF SMALL THINGS: LA WEEKLY FEATURE ON THE CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

The current LA Weekly’s cover story, “The Gods of Small Things,” chronicles the national and regional accomplishments of the Center for Biological Diversity. Author Susan Zakin writes, “The Center for Biological Diversity cares as much about the unarmored three-spined stickleback as it does a cathedral forest of trees, which is why it is reinventing the environmental movement and could be saving Southern California in the process...In a dozen years the Center...won 80% of its cases, roughly twice the rate of most environmental lawfirms, gaining protection for 288 species in 44 states. It has changed the way 38 million acres are managed in the American West, ended cattle grazing along hundreds of miles fragile desert rivers, slowed sprawl of subdivisions, and reduced logging from Alaska to Arizona....The Center has become a one-stop shopping outlet, suing on everything from big dams to the expansion of military bases.”

To read the full story with pictures of the stickleback and other cool species, click here.


SUIT FILED TO PROTECT ANCIENT GREEN STURGEON

The Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Oregon Natural Resources Council filed suit on 11-14-02 to force the National Marine Fisheries Service to decide whether to list the green sturgeon as an endangered species.

Green sturgeon are one of the world's most ancient living species and are among the largest freshwater fish. They can reach 7.5 feet in length and weigh up to 350 pounds. Having survived for millions of years, the green sturgeon has declined by 88% in the Pacific Northwest in just a few short decades due to overfishing, dam construction and habitat loss. It has been eliminated from the San Joaquin, Eel, and South Fork Trinity Rivers in California and has declined severely in the Umpqua River in Oregon and the Fraser River in Canada. It is currently known to spawn in only the Sacramento, Klamath-Trinity and Rogue River basins.

Nevertheless, the Fisheries Service has refused to review a petition to protect the sturgeon. The case is being argued by Brent Plater (the Center) and Sharon Duggan.

For more information on the Center’s green sturgeon campaign, click here.


PETITION FILED TO SAVE PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND ORCAS

The National Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity, Alaska Center for the Environment, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Coastal Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Eyak Preservation Council filed a petition on 11-14-02 to have the AT1 population of killer whales in Prince William Sound listed as “depleted” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

In 1984, the AT1 orca population was at least 22. Up to nine killer whales were lost in the years following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, when several AT1 killer whales were videotaped swimming through rafts of crude and were never seen again. A whale named Eyak that beached and died near Cordova in 2000 had concentrated PCBs at 370 parts per million and DDT at about 470 parts per million in its tissues -- one of the most contaminated marine mammals ever tested. Over the same period, the number of harbor seals numbers crashed in the Gulf of Alaska, plunging by more than 80%. Boat traffic and underwater noise increased.

Today, there are nine whales. Only two of the remaining whales are females young enough to reproduce. No new calves have been observed since 1984. A depleted listing will require the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a plan to save the orcas, and will draw attention to the worldwide problem posed by the spread of industrial pollutants and pesticides banned in the United States but still produced in Asia.

For more information on Prince William Sound Killer Whales.


NEW CALF BRINGS HOPE TO PUGET SOUND ORCAS

The first sighting of newborn calf brings the size of the Puget Sound orca population up to 80 animals. The population likely numbered in the hundreds prior to being captured for display, shot by fishermen and the military, poisoned by DDT and PCBs, harassed by intense whale watching pressure, and suffering the decline of it primary food source- pacific salmon.

In response to a population crash of 20% in the past few years, the Center for Biological Diversity and others petitioned to list the Puget Sound orcas as an endangered species. The Bush administration, however, refused to protect the orcas stating that although the population is genetically, physiologically, and behaviorally distinct, its extinction would not be biologically significant.

The Center and others will soon file suit to challenge this first-ever decision by the U.S. Government that extinction is not significant. For more information on the Center’s campaign to save the Puget Sound orcas.


ENDANGERED SPECIES PREVAIL AT CITES CONVENTION: A REPORT FROM CHILE

The Center for Biological Diversity’s population ecologist, Dr. Martin Taylor, attended the 12th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) in Chile this November. Representing the Center and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Dr. Taylor joined a host of environmental groups pressing for greater restrictions on international trade of endangered species. The primary issue at the convention was the placement of imperiled species on Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES. Appendix I species are fully protected from international commercial trade. Appendix II species can be internationally traded, but only by permit, and only if it the species is not harmed. Unlisted species are not protected from trade pressures.

Overall, the conference was very beneficial, especially for American mahogany, sea horses, sharks, whales, parrots and turtles. African elephants, however, suffered a set back in protection.

Marine Fish. Chile’s proposal to develop a special CITES working group to advance fisheries interests was defeated in an upset vote by whaling nations who turned against the proposal because of amendments by the U.S. that limited the scope. Multiple attacks by the pro-fisheries block (led by Norway, Iceland, Japan, and China) on listings of marine species were frustrated in the meeting.

Proposals to protect whale sharks by the Philippines and India and basking sharks by the UK on Appendix II were approved.

A proposal to list the Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish on Appendix II was withdrawn by Australia in the face of industry opposition and was replaced by a weaker resolution to improve compliance with the regional management organization.

Marine Mammals. Japan mounted a campaign to undermine the current moratorium on commercial whaling. It proposed to downlist certain stocks of Minke whales and Bryde’s whales from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow international trade in these species. The attempt was defeated by extensive lobbying by environmentalists. Japan lost considerable credibility with other whaling nations (Norway and Iceland) by mistakenly writing the proposal to allow only “trade between parties.” This would rule out trade in whales taken on the high seas. Japan tried twice to amend its proposal to read “trade by parties.” They were defeated both times, because amendments cannot expand, only restrict the scope of proposals.

Georgia’s proposal to uplist the Black Sea bottlenose dolphin from Appendix II to Appendix I was defeated, but after intense environmental lobbying was maintained as an Appendix II species with zero trade quota.

Seahorses. The U.S. successfully proposed adding six species of seahorses to Appendix II despite strong opposition by fisheries organizations and importing countries such as China.

Birds. Yellow-naped parrots and blue-headed macaws were added to Appendix I.

Amphibians. Nineteen species of Asian freshwater turtles were added to Appendix II. Two proposals to weaken sea turtle protection were withdrawn due to strong opposition by environmental groups.

Mammals. African elephants fared poorly as a one-time trade approval was granted from ivory from endangered elephants in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The proposal was passed due to lack of leadership from the U.S. and the E.U. Though the trade is limited and must comply with strict regulations, elephant protection groups believe it will give poachers a green light to continue killing elephants.

Plants. Plant victories include uplistings of U.S. species Tonopah fishhook cactus and Santa Barbara Island dudleya and the Chilean monkey puzzle tree to Appendix I. Big-leaf mahogany and Lignum vitae were added to Appendix II. Mahogany’s listing will not take effect for another year, but it is the first major timber species to be listed despite strong opposition from timber interests and Brazil. Switzerland’s proposed downlistings of prickly pear and Pereskia species were withdrawn for lack of support.

For more information see:
www.citescop12.cl/English/english.html
www.speciessurvivalnetwork.org
www.wdcs.org


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