The Endangered Species Act and Marine Animals: To List or Not To List?

Endangered species seem to be coming up around here more often than usual, mostly due to the potential state-level listing of great white sharks in California.  This move has been resisted from some surprising corners, including researchers who are generally pro-shark conservation.  The reasons why scientists might want to oppose an Endangered Species listing are laid out by Dr. Chris Lowe in an earlier post on this very blog, so I won’t reiterate all of them here.  Surprisingly, I have yet to see any comments accusing Dr. Lowe of being a shill for the drift gillnet fishery.

There seems to a be a real sense among some conservation-minded folks that Endangered Species listing is something of a “holy grail” for species protection and recovery, and some petitioners would have you believe that anything less is unacceptable (and probably the result of corruption).  However, the Endangered Species Act has a very specific process by which species receive protection, and a defined set of limitations.  A lot of well-meaning people seem to have limited knowledge of this process and limitations.  To do my little part to help fix this, this post will be a short primer on the Act and will show how a marine species has recently navigated the entire process for listing.  With any luck, maybe this will result in one or two fewer misguided online petitions.

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