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Endangered Species Bulletin

NMFS—a Partner for Endangered Species

NMFS—a Partner for Endangered Species

Terri Jordan

NMFS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NMFS national headquarters office is located in Silver Spring, Maryland, with five regional offices and supporting science centers in the Northeast, Southeast (including the U.S. Caribbean islands), Southwest (including Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific islands), Northwest, and Alaska.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) assigns lead responsibility for most marine and anadromous species to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Although most people think of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) when it comes to the protection and recovery of endangered wildlife, NMFS, like its partner agency FWS, lists species and designates critical habitat, consults with Federal agencies to ensure their activities do not jeopardize listed species, prepares and implements recovery plans, develops cooperative agreements with States, enforces legal protection, and issues permits for scientific research and incidental take of listed species. Species under NMFS jurisdiction that are listed or proposed for listing include cetaceans (dolphins and whales), sea turtles, marine and anadromous (those that spend part of their life in salt water and part in fresh water) fish, seals and sea lions, and marine plants. A complete list of listed, proposed, and candidate species under NMFS jurisdiction is included in the table below.

NMFS Species List

Listed/Proposed

Fish

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Salmon, chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Snake River Fall

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Snake River

Spring/Summer

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Sacramento River

Winter-Run

Salmon, coho Oncorhynchus kisutch Southern

Oregon-Northern

California Coast

Oncorhynchus kisutch Central California

Coast

Salmon, sockeye Oncorhynchus nerka Snake River

Sturgeon, Gulf Acipenser oxyrinchus Gulf of Mexico

desotoi

Sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum Canada to Florida

shortnose

Totoaba Cynoscion macdonaldi Gulf of California

Trout, cutthroat Oncorhynchus clarki Umpqua River,

clarki Oregon

Trout, steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss Lower Columbia

River

Oncorhynchus mykiss Snake River Basin

Oncorhynchus mykiss Klamath Mountains

Province

Oncorhynchus mykiss Upper Columbia

River

Oncorhynchus mykiss Southern

California

Oncorhynchus mykiss Central California

Coast

Oncorhynchus mykiss California Central

Valley

Oncorhynchus mykiss Oregon Coast

Oncorhynchus mykiss South-Central

Coast

Oncorhynchus mykiss Northern

California

Fish

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Salmon, chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Threatened

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Threatened

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Endangered

Salmon, coho Oncorhynchus kisutch Threatened

Oncorhynchus kisutch Threatened

Salmon, sockeye Oncorhynchus nerka Endangered

Sturgeon, Gulf Acipenser oxyrinchus Threatened

desotoi

Sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum Endangered

shortnose

Totoaba Cynoscion macdonaldi Endangered

Trout, cutthroat Oncorhynchus clarki Endangered

clarki

Trout, steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss Proposed

Threatened

Oncorhynchus mykiss Threatened

Oncorhynchus mykiss Proposed

Threatened

Oncorhynchus mykiss Endangered

Oncorhynchus mykiss Endangered

Oncorhynchus mykiss Threatened

Oncorhynchus mykiss Proposed

Endangered

Oncorhynchus mykiss Proposed

Threatened

Oncorhynchus mykiss Threatened

Oncorhynchus mykiss Proposed

Threatened

Mammal

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Dolphin, Chinese Lipotes vexillifer Yangtze River,

River China

Dolphin, Platanista minor Indus River Indus

River, Pakistan

Porpoise, harbor Phocoena phocoena Gulf of Maine/Bay

of Fundy

Porpoise, harbor, Phocoena sinus Gulf of California

Gulf of California

(Vaquita, Cochito)

Sea lion, Steller Eumetopias jubatus East of

144 [degrees]

Long

Eumetopias jubatus West of

144 [degrees]

Long

Seal, Caribbean Monachus tropicalis Range-wide

monk

Seal, Guadalupe Arctocephalus Mexico, Southern

fur townsendi California

Seal, Hawaiian Monachus Hawaiian Islands

monk schauinslandi

Seal, Monachus monachus Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean

monk

Seal, Saimaa Phoca hispida Lake Saimaa,

saimensis Finland

Whale, blue Balaenoptera Range-wide

musculus

Whale, bowhead Balaena mysticetus Range-wide

Whale, finback Balaenoptera Range-wide

physalus

Whale, humpback Megaptera Range-wide

novaeangliae

Whale, right Eubalaena glacialis Range-wide

(including australis)

Whale, sei Balaenoptera borealis Range-wide

Whale, sperm Physeter macrocephalus Range-wide

(catodon)

Mammal

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Dolphin, Chinese Lipotes vexillifer Endangered

River

Dolphin, Platanista minor Endangered

Porpoise, harbor Phocoena phocoena Proposed

Threatened

Porpoise, harbor, Phocoena sinus Endangered

Gulf of California

(Vaquita, Cochito)

Sea lion, Steller Eumetopias jubatus Threatened

Eumetopias jubatus Endangered

Seal, Caribbean Monachus tropicalis Endangered

monk

Seal, Guadalupe Arctocephalus Threatened

fur townsendi

Seal, Hawaiian Monachus Endangered

monk schauinslandi

Seal, Monachus monachus Endangered

Mediterranean

monk

Seal, Saimaa Phoca hispida Endangered

saimensis

Whale, blue Balaenoptera Endangered

musculus

Whale, bowhead Balaena mysticetus Endangered

Whale, finback Balaenoptera Endangered

physalus

Whale, humpback Megaptera Endangered

novaeangliae

Whale, right Eubalaena glacialis Endangered

(including australis)

Whale, sei Balaenoptera borealis Endangered

Whale, sperm Physeter macrocephalus Endangered

(catodon)

Reptile

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Sea turtle, green Chelonia mydas Range-wide

Sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata Range-wide

hawksbill

Sea turtle, Kemp’s Lepidochelys kempii Range-wide

(Atlantic) ridley

Sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea Range-wide

leatherback

Sea Turtle, Caretta caretta Range-wide

loggerhead

Sea turtle, olive Lepidochelys olivacea Range-wide

(Pacific) ridley

Reptile

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Sea turtle, green Chelonia mydas Threatened,

certain

populations

endangered

Sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata Endangered

hawksbill

Sea turtle, Kemp’s Lepidochelys kempii Endangered

(Atlantic) ridley

Sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea Endangered

leatherback

Sea Turtle, Caretta caretta Threatened

loggerhead

Sea turtle, olive Lepidochelys olivacea Threatened,

(Pacific) ridley certain

populations

endangered

Plant

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Seagrass, Halophila johnsonii Southeast Florida

Johnson’s

Plant

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Seagrass, Halophila johnsonii Proposed

Johnson’s Threatened

Candidate

Fish

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Grouper, Warsaw Epinephelus nigritus MA south to Gulf

of Mexico

Grouper, Nassau Epinephelus striatus NC south to Gulf

of Mexico

Hind, speckled Epinephelus drummondhayi NC south to Gulf

of Mexico

Jewfish Epinephelus itijara NC south to Gulf

of Mexico

Pipefish, opossum Microphis brachyurus Florida, Indian

lineatus River Lagoon

Rivulus, mangrove Rivulus marmoratus Southeast Florida

Salmon, Atlantic Salmo salar Gulf of Maine DPS

Salmon, chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha West Coast

Salmon, chum Oncorhynchus keta West Coast

Salmon, coho Oncorhynchus kisutch Puget

Sound/Straits of

Georgia ESU

Oncorhynchus kisutch Oregon Coast ESU

Oncorhynchus kisutch Lower Columbia

River ESU

Oncorhynchus kisutch SW Washington ESU

Salmon, sockeye Oncorhynchus nerka West Coast

Shad, Alabama Alosa alabamae AL, FL

Shark, Dusky Carcharhinus obscurus Atlantic, Gulf of

Mexico, Pacific

Shark, Night Carcharhinus signatus Atlantic, Gulf of

Mexico

Shark, Sand Tiger Odontaspis taurus Atlantic, Gulf of

Mexico

Silverside, Key Menidia conchorum Florida Keys

Sturgeon, Atlantic Acipenser oxyrinchus Atlantic

oxyrinchus

Topminnow, salt Fundulus jenkinsi TX, LA, MS, AL, FL

marsh

Trout, searun Oncorhynchus clarki West Coast

cutthroat clarki

Trout, steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss Middle Columbia

River ESU

Fish

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Grouper, Warsaw Epinephelus nigritus Candidate

Grouper, Nassau Epinephelus striatus Candidate

Hind, speckled Epinephelus drummondhayi Candidate

Jewfish Epinephelus itijara Candidate

Pipefish, opossum Microphis brachyurus Candidate

lineatus

Rivulus, mangrove Rivulus marmoratus Candidate

Salmon, Atlantic Salmo salar Candidate

Salmon, chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Candidate

Salmon, chum Oncorhynchus keta Candidate

Salmon, coho Oncorhynchus kisutch Candidate

Oncorhynchus kisutch Candidate

Oncorhynchus kisutch Candidate

Oncorhynchus kisutch Candidate

Salmon, sockeye Oncorhynchus nerka Candidate

Shad, Alabama Alosa alabamae Candidate

Shark, Dusky Carcharhinus obscurus Candidate

Shark, Night Carcharhinus signatus Candidate

Shark, Sand Tiger Odontaspis taurus Candidate

Silverside, Key Menidia conchorum Candidate

Sturgeon, Atlantic Acipenser oxyrinchus Candidate

oxyrinchus

Topminnow, salt Fundulus jenkinsi Candidate

marsh

Trout, searun Oncorhynchus clarki Candidate

cutthroat clarki

Trout, steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss Candidate

Mammal

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Whale, beluga Delphinapterus leucas Cook Inlet, Alaska

Mammal

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Whale, beluga Delphinapterus leucas Candidate

Mollusk

Common Name Scientific Name Population/Range

Abalone, white Haliotis sorenseni California; Baja,

CA

Mollusk

Common Name Scientific Name ESA Status

Abalone, white Haliotis sorenseni Candidate

Marine Mammals

The agency’s mandate to protect species extends beyond the ESA to include marine mammals under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA). Under this law, NMFS has Federal jurisdiction for all marine mammal species (about 45) occurring in U.S. waters, with the exception of the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), sea otter (Enhydra lutris), walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), and West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), which are managed by the FWS. Currently, 11 species of marine mammals native to U.S. waters, including most of the large whale species, are also classified as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

The eastern north Pacific population of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) represents the most successful recovery of any marine mammal species. Previously hunted to near extinction, it recovered to become the first marine mammal stock removed from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. In contrast, the northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is a species in peril. Historically, commercial whaling severely depleted the species. More recently, ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the most serious direct threats to right whales. With approximately 300 individuals remaining, NMFS is taking steps to recover the species in the North Atlantic Ocean by contributing to studies using satellite and radio telemetry to determine habitat use, assisting in aircraft surveillance flights to help ships avoid striking whales, and working with commercial fisherman to reduce the threat of whale entanglement in fishing gear.

Sea Turtles

For some species, such as sea turtles, NMFS and the FWS share responsibility. The FWS is responsible for protection of sea turtles in their nesting beach habitat, while NMFS has jurisdiction for turtles in estuarine and marine environments. Six species of sea turtles are listed either as endangered or threatened under the ESA: the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and green turtle (Chelonia mydas). In conjunction with the FWS and State natural resource agencies, NMFS is focusing on recovery of sea turtle populations. NMFS research and monitoring activities include fishery observer programs, life history studies in marine habitats, aerial surveys, and collection of data on stranded turtles.

The southeast U.S. (North Carolina through Florida) is home to the largest assemblage of nesting loggerheads in the Western Hemisphere. The vast majority of the nesting occurs along the east coast of Florida. In recent years, between 60,000 and 85,000 nests have been recorded annually on southeast U.S. beaches. The marine and estuarine habitats of the southeast U.S. are equally critical to the recovery of the loggerhead. Considerable joint agency efforts are needed to ensure the long-term protection of both nesting and marine habitat for this species.

Florida and Hawaii are the main nesting and foraging areas for green turtles in the U.S., where the nesting populations have shown encouraging signs of recovery. But the future of this species remains at risk due to poaching, capture in nearshore gillnets, and the increasing scope and magnitude of a tumor affliction disease known as fibropapilloma. (See Bulletin Vol. XXI, No. 2.)

The Kemp’s ridley is unusual in that it nests primarily on one main beach, Rancho Nuevo, on Mexico’s northern Gulf Coast. In 1947, 40,000 females were documented to nest on a single day. The population plummeted due to overexploitation and incidental capture in commercial fisheries. Today, with strong protection of the nesting beach and the requirement to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in shrimp trawls, the nesting population has been increasing from approximately 700 nests per year in the mid-1980’s to 2,300 nests in 1997.

TEDs are devices incorporated into shrimp trawls that prevent a turtle from drowning in the tailbag of the net by directing the turtle through an escape opening. These devices have provided benefits for many species of sea turtles inhabiting the southeast Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and have been implemented in the shrimp fishing fleets of some foreign nations as well. NMFS has spearheaded the development and improvement of TEDs and has also provided technical assistance to foreign nations in implementing the use of TEDs in their shrimp fisheries.

Pacific Salmon

The listing of Pacific salmon stocks in the early 1990’s increased NMFS’ opportunities to work with western States, Native American tribes, private landowners, and other Federal agencies to recover salmon. The recovery effort for salmonids is complex due to their wide geographic range and the effect of these listing actions on a wide variety of interests. The Northwest and Southwest Regions of NMFS have taken the lead in determining the current status of seven Pacific salmonid species: chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), sea-run cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki), pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).

Currently, 12 separate stocks or evolutionary significant units (ESUs) of Pacific salmonids are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA (see table). NMFS is conducting status reviews for populations of all seven salmonid species found along the Pacific coast of the U.S. Thus far, it has determined that, in addition to those listed or proposed for listing, the biological status of some did not warrant ESA listing.

NMFS has worked closely with western States to develop strategies for species recovery, including a conservation plan with the State of Oregon to protect coho salmon and a habitat conservation plan (HCP) with the State of Washington to protect 1.6 million acres (0.6 million hectares) of inland habitat for salmon. Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began implementing its HCP in January 1997. It protects the habitat of salmonids and other species by modifying timber management practices on DNR lands for the next 70-100 years (the permit term). The new practices are intended to conserve riparian habitats that provide essential functions for freshwater aquatic systems important to salmon. Conservation measures include increased riparian buffers, additional wind buffers in wind throw prone areas, road maintenance and abandonment plans, and a strong monitoring plan. NMFS works very closely with tribes that depend upon salmon, helping the tribes maintain their culture and exercise their treaty rights. NMFS is currently working with about 50 non-Federal landowners to develop HCPs that cover vast areas of salmon habitat in the western States.

In July of 1997, NMFS updated its Candidate Species List. The list includes species for which reliable information is available that a listing may be warranted. However, NMFS will require further information (i.e., status review) before it makes a decision to propose any of these species for listing. Currently, 22 species (including vertebrate populations) are classified as candidate species. (See table.)

As a vital partner in the effort to protect and restore our Nation’s vulnerable wildlife heritage, NMFS faces monumental challenges. However, the cooperative relationships being forged with other government agencies, Native American tribes, and the private sector provide hope that the conservation goals we all share can eventually be achieved.

Terri Jordan is a Fishery Biologist with the NMFS Headquarters’ Office of Protected Resources in Silver Spring, Maryland.

COPYRIGHT 1998 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group