Marine Life Rebounds With Federal Intervention

LOS ANGELES (CN) – U.S. intervention on behalf of endangered or threatened marine mammals and sea turtles caused marked population surges in more than three-quarters of listed species, a study unveiled Wednesday shows. 

Published this morning in the journal PLOS ONE, the study involved Abel Valdivia with the Center for Biological Diversity and other researchers analyzing annual population data for the 62 marine mammal species and sea turtle species listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

The researchers then focused on 23 representative populations — 14 marine mammal species and five sea turtle species — to study population trends, the magnitude of population change and recovery status.

What they found was that 78 percent of marine mammal populations and 75 percent of sea turtle populations increased significantly after being listed for federal protection.

“Conservation measures triggered by ESA listing such as ending exploitation, tailored species management, and fishery regulations, and other national and international measures, appear to have been largely successful in promoting species recovery, leading to the delisting of some species and to increases in most populations,” the study abstract states, using an abbreviation for the 1973 law. “These findings underscore the capacity of marine mammal and sea turtle species to recover from substantial geographical population declines when conservation actions are implemented in a timely and effective manner.”

Wednesday’s study comes at a time when human activity — including large-scale fishing operations, offshore oil drilling, sonar waves and underwater bomb detonations — have caused significant population declines in a large numbers of marine life. Just last month, Valdivia’s group called it “shocking” that the Trump administration denied protections to 13 rare species of wildlife.

The researchers say their findings underscore the capacity of conservation efforts to bring marine life back from the brink of extinction.

“Overall, the 24 populations that increased in abundance were from species listed for 20 years or more (e.g., large whales, manatees, and sea turtles),” the study abstract continues.

The study did find population declines in two species of marine mammal that were listed, as well nonsignificant changes in three marine mammal populations and two sea turtle populations.

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