Home
Donate Sign up for e-network
CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good
ABOUT ACTION PROGRAMS SPECIES NEWSROOM PUBLICATIONS SUPPORT

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

SAVING THE BOWHEAD WHALE

Gentle giants of the sea, bowhead whales live in the coldest, most remote reaches of the world’s oceans. Amid the thick, omnipresent arctic pack ice, the only predator they encounter — aside from humans — is the killer whale. But humans pose the far greater threat to this species’ survival. Like most whales, this once-numerous cetacean was hunted nearly to extinction. Now it faces the formidable threat of Arctic oil drilling.

Bowhead whales living off the coast of Alaska should be an Endangered Species Act success story. Following the prohibition of commercial whaling, this population rebounded and now likely numbers more than 10,000 whales. But seriously threatening that success is oil drilling by Shell in the Beaufort Sea, which the Obama administration approved to move forward in summer 2012 despite a lawsuit by the Center and allies.

However, the bowhead whale’s continuing recovery is at risk from the intertwined consequences of our unquenchable thirst for oil, and as a result the Center has been fighting for protection of the whale’s home since 2000, when we filed a petition to designate 26.5 million acres as critical habitat for the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort stock of bowheads. Habitat is being disturbed and polluted by offshore oil development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and as CO2 warms our planet, the arctic ice pack is rapidly melting; the whales are in danger from noise, oil spills, and deadly collisions with ships, while global warming is steadily melting their icy abode and reducing available food. The Center is challenging Arctic offshore oil development in court and fighting global warming in the courthouse, statehouse and everywhere in between.

Get the latest on our work for biodiversity and learn how to help in our free weekly e-newsletter.

KEY DOCUMENTS
2000 Critical habitat petition
1970 Federal Endangered Species Act listing

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROFILE

ACTION TIMELINE

NATURAL HISTORY

MEDIA
Press releases
Media highlights
Search our newsroom for the bowhead whale

RELATED ISSUES
Oceans
Climate Law Institute
Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative
Oil and Gas Development
The Endangered Species Act

Contact: Brendan Cummings

Photo by Rick LeDuc, NOAA