NOAA Fisheries delivers report on endangered species

Congressional update provides progress on species recovery and management.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Members of Congress were provided with a status update on NOAA Fisheries’ strategic approach to endangered species recovery. The biannual report gave legislators insight on the status of each species targeted for protection or recovery.

The number of species listed within the jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries increased 10 percent during the two-year period of the published report. NOAA Fisheries staff added they managed 97 domestic species and 66 foreign species during the same timeframe (2017 and 2018), including corals, marine mammals, mollusks, salmon, sawfish, seagrass, sea turtles and sturgeon.

“We monitor recovery progress by conducting a review of the species status at least once every five years (five-year review) to determine, on the basis of such review, whether the species should be reclassified or removed from the list,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated in its report to Congress.

Two transnational species were newly identified for a recovery plan, according to the report: giant manta ray and oceanic whitetip shark.

The canary rockfish was delisted under the federal Endangered Species Act, the report added.

“Of the 90 domestic or transnational listed species for which a recovery plan has or will be developed, 54 had final recovery plans, two had a draft recovery plan, and 25 had plans in development,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated in their report to Congress. “Nine species recovery plans had not been started. We have many multispecies plans, as well as multiple plans for one species (for example, sea turtles). Thus the number of plans does not directly correspond to the number of species.”

NOAA Fisheries staff provided some statistics about the 90 species designated for a recovery plan. There were 27 species (30 percent) whose population was stabilizing or increasing. Another 18 species (20 percent) were experiencing a decline in population. Nine species (10 percent) were listed as “mixed” – the status, according to NOAA Fisheries staff, varied by population location.

The remaining 40 percent (36 species) were marked as unknown, “because we lacked sufficient trend data to make a determination.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studies various species to determine whether they require protection under the Endangered Species Act, which is also referred to as the ESA.

“Recovery is the process of restoring listed species to the point they no longer require the protections of the ESA,” the NOAA Fisheries report to Congress stated. “A recovery plan serves as a road map for species recovery – it lays out where to go and how to get there. Recovery plans are guidance documents, not regulatory, and the ESA clearly envisions recovery plans as the central organizing tool guiding the species’ progress toward recovery.”

Sacramento River’s Winter-Run Chinook Salmon was one of the species listed in the report’s “Spotlight” section.

“Over the last 10 years of available data (2009–2018), the population’s abundance of spawning adults ranged from a low of 827 in 2011 to a high of 6,084 in 2013, with an average of 2,733. The earliest abundance data comes from the late 1960s when up to 117,000 winter-run Chinook salmon spawning adults were estimated. The population crashed in the 1970s and has persisted in large part due to managed cold-water releases from Shasta Reservoir from the spring through the fall, and artificial propagation from Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery’s winter-run Chinook salmon conservation program, “NOAA Fisheries staff stated in its report to Congress.

“Winter-run Chinook salmon are dependent on sufficient cold water storage in Shasta Reservoir, and it has long been recognized that a prolonged drought could have devastating impacts, possibly leading to the species’ extinction,” the report continued.

The NOAA Fisheries report summarizes its recover efforts between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2018.

Some of the species listed under NOAA Fisheries jurisdiction for recovery are sea turtles, salmon (Chinook, Coho, steelhead, sockeye), Atlantic sturgeon, black and white abalone, Hawaiian monk seal and whales (Beluga, blue, false killer, fin, humpback).

NOAA has a few programs dedicated to funding recovery actions. Those programs include: Species Recovery Grants to States; Species Recovery Grants to Tribes; and, Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

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