Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 5, 2018

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,  

Trump Administration Proposes Threatened Status for Rare Atlantic Seabird, But Includes No Protection

Black-capped Petrel Would Get No Safeguards Against Offshore Oil Threats

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed listing the black-capped petrel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But today’s proposal would not protect the petrel from extinction because of a loophole that exempts major threats from offshore oil exploration.

Once thought to be extinct, the birds have only a few breeding colonies remaining in the Caribbean.

“These beautiful, ocean-loving birds aren’t getting the full protection of the Endangered Species Act to keep them safe from oil and gas development,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration has recklessly carved out vital safeguards for the petrels, leaving them with little hope for survival.”

Black-capped petrels are cliff-dwelling seabirds that forage off the Atlantic Coast, from North Carolina to Florida. They have recently been observed in the Gulf of Mexico. There are only four known petrel nesting colonies on the island of Hispaniola and 500-1,000 breeding pairs. The petrel is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the international authority on endangered species.

On shore the birds are threatened by the destruction of breeding habitat through deforestation. At sea, oil and gas activities in the Gulf and Atlantic threaten the bird and its habitat with seismic exploration, oil spills and night lighting.

The proposed rule, if finalized, would strip away the most meaningful protections of the Act by exempting all incidental harm to the bird from oil and gas exploration or other offshore activities and by not designating critical habitat. In so doing, the rule in part relies on a recent Trump administration reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as only applying to intentional killing of birds and not the many other activities that incidentally kill birds, including oil and gas development. 

“It’s appalling to see the Trump administration acknowledge these unique seabirds’ imperiled status, but then utterly fail to provide any meaningful protections,” said Lopez. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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