Feb 102015

A lawsuit has been filed seeking a threatened listing under the Endangered Species Act for the blueback herring.

From the news release:

In August 2011, NRDC petitioned NMFS to list blueback herring as threatened under the ESA, and to designate critical habitat for the species. Two years later, the Service published its determination that the blueback herring was not likely to become in danger of extinction and does not warrant protection under the ESA—despite the government’s acknowledgement that the species was likely at or less than two percent of its historical baseline (based on catch levels) and that three out of four regional blueback herring populations in the U.S. were likely still decreasing. NRDC and Earthjustice, on behalf of several fishing and watershed groups, filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue for ESA protection of the imperiled river herring in October 2014.

Complaint (NRDC v. Sobeck, 15-198, D.D.C.)

The plaintiffs are NRDC, Anglers Conservation Network, Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Association, Great Egg Harbor River Council, and Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association.

Feb 022015

Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council have sued three federal agencies "demanding that [they] fix their dam operations that threaten the existence of wild pallid sturgeon." (press release) (complaint)

That's one big fish

"Although the impacts of these dams have been well documented for more than 20 years, the agencies have avoided their obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to change their operations. Instead of complying with their ESA obligations, the Corps and Reclamation are now proposing to increase the size of the Intake Diversion Dam [on the Yellowstone River] and add an artificial side channel for fish passage that scientists say has no reasonable expectation of success, creating an even bigger and more permanent barrier to pallid sturgeon passage," DoW and NRDC said in their news release, issued today (Feb. 2).

Background, from the press release:

Background: The Intake Diversion Dam on the Yellowstone River – a major tributary of the upper Missouri River – blocks pallid sturgeon from reaching critical spawning grounds, while issues with the timing and temperature of water releases from the Fort Peck Dam, destroy the pallid’s spawning and rearing habitat in the mainstem Missouri. Any eggs that hatch are sent downstream to suffocate, starve, or become food for larger fish in Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. Together, these dams prevent the pallid sturgeon from successfully reproducing in the upper Missouri River basin. As a result, the wild population in the basin – the most important population of pallid sturgeon remaining for recovery – is dying out. Approximately 125 wild fish remain, all nearing the end of their lives.

NRDC Switchboard (Marcus Griswold)

Dec 032014

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has approved a consent decree requiring the National Marine Fisheries Service to designate critical habitat for the New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segments of the Atlantic sturgeon (Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 14-434-RBW, D.D.C.).

Under the agreement, NMFS will propose CH for the five DPS's by Nov. 30, 2015, and publish final rules a year after that.

The government agreed to pay the plaintiffs $12,615 in attorney fees and costs.

Here's the full consent decree, as signed by Walton Dec. 1:


Sep 102012

The same day the final rule delisting wolves in Wyoming appeared in the Federal Register, four environmental groups said they will sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over the decision, annonced last week.

Earthjustice, representing Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and FWS Director Dan Ashe.

"Wyoming’s wolf management policies open the door to unlimited wolf killing throughout most of the state and provide inadequate protection for wolves even where killing is regulated," a news release issued today says.


NOITS posted on ESWR's page

Delisting rule in FR

Earthjustice page with wolf links

May 242012

The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., to force the National Marine Fisheries Service  to make a final listing decision on a dolphin species whose population numbers less than 200 individuals (NRDC v. Bryson, 12-826, D.D.C.).

NRDC petitioned to list the  insular Hawaiian population of the false killer whale in September 2009. The service proposed to list the DPS as endangered on Nov. 17, 2010.

The dolphin at issue (Photo by Doug Perrine, Seapics.com)

"[W]e have determined that the Hawaiian insular false killer whale is a distinct population segment (DPS) that qualifies as a species under the ESA," NMFS said in the proposal. "Moreover, after evaluating threats facing the species, and considering efforts being made to protect the Hawaiian insular DPS, we have determined that the DPS is declining and is in danger of extinction throughout its range."

In addition, NMFS said:

Reduced genetic diversity, inbreeding depression, and other Allee effects associated with small population size represent a high risk to current and future Hawaiian insular false killer whales. The current estimated number of breeding adults (46 individuals) is so small that inbreeding depression could have increasingly negative effects on population growth rate and other traits, including social factors (such as reduced efficiency in group foraging and potential loss of knowledge needed to deal with unusual environmental events), may further compromise the ability of Hawaiian insular false killer whales to recover to healthy levels.

NMFS described the "Allee effect":

The decrease in per capita population growth as population size declines is often referred to as the ‘‘Allee effect’’ or ‘‘depensation’’ (see references in Oleson et al., 2010) . In essence, as the number of individuals decreases there are costs from a lack of predator saturation, impaired anti-predator vigilance or defence [sic], a breakdown of cooperative feeding, an increased possibility of inbreeding depression or other genetic issues, decreased birth rates as a result of not finding mates, or a combination of these effects. The Allee effect increases risk to small populations directly by contributing to the risk of extinction, and indirectly by decreasing the rate of recovery of exploited populations and, therefore, maintaining populations at a smaller size where extinction risk is higher for a variety of reasons (Dennis, 1989; Stephens and Sutherland, 1999). In addition, social odontocetes (such as false killer whales) may be particularly vulnerable over and beyond the numerical loss of individuals to the population (Wade and Reeves, 2010).

In its complaint, NRDC said, "Since the mid-1980's the Hawaiian insular false killer whale population has undergone a substantial and pronounced decline. NMFS estimates that the historic abundance of this population was around 769 whales, with a lower limit of 470 whales. Currently, the best estimates of the population size are around 150 whales. This represents a dramatic departure from historic abundance. Evidence suggests that much of this decline has occurred over the past 10-20 years, and while some threats to the species are apparent, the reason for the decline is not known."


Honolulu Advertiser (5/23/12) ("The National Marine Fisheries Service recommended 18 months ago that the population be listed. Under federal law, the agency had one year to decide whether to do so.")