Ten Penguin Species Considered For Endangered Species Listing

Protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be warranted for 10 species of penguins found in Antarctica and the southern hemisphere, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFS) announced this week. The USFS will conduct a full review of the 10 species' status and determine whether to propose them for inclusion on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

The penguin species inhabit areas of Antarctica, Argentina, Australian Territory Islands, Chile, French Territory Islands, Namibia, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and United Kingdom Territory Islands. Threats to the species include commercial fishing, competition for prey, habitat loss, danger from non-native predators, contaminants, pollution and impacts to the marine and terrestrial environment brought on by climate change.

An initial finding by USFS responded to a petition that requested 12 penguin species be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The initial review, called a 90-day finding under the act, found substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted for only 10 of those species.

Listing these penguin species under the domestic Endangered Species Act would provide limited and indirect protection, since no penguins are native to the United States. A listing would make it illegal to engage in certain activities such as the import or export of specimens of these species without an ESA permit, which is issued only if an activity has a conservation benefit. Listing would also focus international attention on the species' conservation needs.

The 10 penguin species for which the USFS found substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted include the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi (E. chrysocome moseleyi)), fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula albosignata (E. minor albosignata)), yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), and Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti).

The petition did not contain substantial information to indicate that a listing may be warranted for snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus) and royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli).

During the status review, the USFS will study scientific literature and contact experts on penguin biology and other relevant areas. A 60-day comment period opened on July 11, 2007 to solicit scientific and commercial information from the public regarding these species.

Comments in writing may be forwarded by mail to the Special Assistant to the Deputy Assistant Director, International Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 760, Arlington, VA 22203; by fax to 703-358-2276 or by email to DSApenguins@fws.gov, or through the Federal eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. A link to the Federal Register notice of the 90-day finding may be found at www.fws.gov/international.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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