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Moby Dick Versus the Federal Government

Timeless Tale Warns of Dangers of Exploiting Nature

Denver, CO-Feb. 16. Today begins “Ocean Week,” WildEarth Guardians’ final week of its eight-week long BioBlitz, an effort to push the U.S. government to more aggressively respond to the biodiversity crisis in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity. The closing action this week will be a lawsuit to pressure U.S. federal agencies to finalize recovery plans for three types of whales, including the Sperm Whale. Moby-Dick, the whale immortalized in Herman Melville’s classic by the same name, was a Sperm Whale. Melville’s central human character was Captain Ahab, a man so obsessed by his quest to kill the great whale he ultimately committed suicide to succeed.

“The sperm whale has been waiting for decades for a recovery plan. It’s time to recover this noble and iconic victim of human greed and short-sightedness,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

The group believes the tale of Moby Dick illuminates humanity’s tendency to destroy the native animals and plants in our midst. Scientists warn that human-caused extinction rates are at least 1,000 times the natural rate of species loss. The rapidly increasing global human population is accelerating this crisis. The native animals and plants going extinct play important roles in their ecosystems and signal when resources vital to human survival - including clean air, water, and healthy soils - are becoming fast depleted.

“Exploitation of nature is taking its toll, with skyrocketing species extinction rates across the planet. Full enforcement of the Endangered Species Act can help turn humanity away from the foolish path of Captain Ahab,” stated Rosmarino.

Conservation actions taken by WildEarth Guardians during “Ocean Week” are:

February 16: a petition requesting federal protection for the Warsaw Grouper. This Western Atlantic species is threatened by fishing, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. When pulled up from the depths at which it dwells, this grouper suffers from “the bends,” hemorrhaging, and death. Human population growth, and consequent increases in fishing, is an underlying threat.

February 17: a petition requesting critical habitat designation for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, particularly in its nesting habitat on the Texas Gulf Coast. Threats on land include development and artificial lighting, which can deter nesting females and disorient hatchlings away from their crucial trek to the sea.

February 18: a lawsuit pressing the federal government to provide final recovery plans for the Sei, Fin, and Sperm Whales. All three of these whales were first federally protected as endangered in 1970, under a predecessor to the Endangered Species Act. But none of them have final recovery plans. Recovery plans are essential for spelling out the steps to pull endangered species back from the brink.

The BioBlitz began on December 28, the 36-year anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, in tribute to the law’s role in protecting biodiversity and in celebration of 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity. For 36 consecutive working days, Guardians has been filing lawsuits or scientific petitions to obtain Endangered Species Act protection for imperiled species. By the close of the BioBlitz, Guardians will have taken actions for over 100 species in 36 days.

Each week of the BioBlitz illustrated a theme. Previous week themes were: Climate, E.O. Wilson, Prairie, On the Prowl, Sagebrush Sea, Borderlands, and Wildflowers.

“The Endangered Species Act has a nearly perfect record in preventing extinction: over 99 percent of the species protected under it are still with us today. The International Year of Biodiversity must remind the U.S. government that it has the power to safeguard biodiversity - now it just needs the will,” stated Rosmarino.

WildEarth Guardians has been at the forefront of endangered species enforcement in the U.S. The group is a formal partner in the United Nation’s Year of Biodiversity (see here), in which “The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”

View the Warsaw Grouper fact sheet (PDF)

View the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle fact sheet (PDF)

View the Sperm Whale fact sheet (PDF)


 

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