NOAA announces recovery plan for fin whales, status review ongoing for Yangtze River Dolphin
75 Fed. Reg. 47538 / Vol. 75, No. 151 / Friday, August 6, 2010 / Notices
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plans
SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the adoption of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Recovery Plan for the Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). The Recovery Plan contains revisions and additions in consideration of public comments received on the proposed draft Recovery Plan for the fin whale.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Recovery plans describe actions considered necessary for the conservation and recovery of species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The ESA requires that recovery plans incorporate (1) objective, measurable criteria that, when met, would result in a determination that the species is no longer threatened or endangered; (2) site-specific management actions necessary to achieve the plan’s goals; and (3) estimates of the time required and costs to implement recovery actions. The ESA requires the development of recovery plans for listed species unless such a plan would not promote the recovery of a particular species. NMFS’ goal is to restore endangered fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) populations to the point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their ecosystems and no longer need the protections of the ESA. The fin whale was listed as an endangered species under the ESA on December 2, 1970 (35 FR 18319). Fin whales have a global distribution and can be found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Southern Hemisphere. Although most populations were depleted by modern whaling in the midtwentieth century, there are still tens of thousands of fin whales worldwide. Currently, the population structure of fin whales has not been adequately defined. Most models have assigned arbitrary boundaries, often based on patterns of historic whaling activity and catch reports, rather than on biological evidence. Populations are often divided on an ocean basin level. Since the Southern Ocean often refers only to waters surrounding Antarctica and fin whales occur not only in those waters but also in temperate waters, we refer to the geographic area for the fin whale subspecies (Balaena physalus quoyi) as the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore, the Recovery Plan is organized, for convenience, by ocean basin and discussed in three sections: those fin whales in the North Atlantic ocean, those in the North Pacific Ocean and its adjoining seas and gulfs, and those in the Southern Hemisphere, referring particularly to areas near Antarctica. There is a need for an improved understanding of the genetic differences among and between populations, in order to determine distinct population units. Although there is new information, existing knowledge of population structure remains poor. New information is currently insufficient to identify units that are both discrete and significant to the survival of the species.
Fin whales have a sleek, streamlined body with a V-shaped head. They have a tall, "falcate" dorsal fin, located about two-thirds of the way back on the body, that rises at a shallow angle from the animal's back. The species has a distinctive coloration pattern: the back and sides of the body are black or dark brownish-gray, and the ventral surface is white. Individual fin whales can be identified by the pattern of chevrons and streaks of lighter coloration on their back, in addition to the size and shape of their dorsal fin. Caption info from NOAA, photo from NOAA Ocean Explorer
EXCERPT: The Recovery Plan presents a recovery strategy to address the potential threats based on the best available science and presents guidance for use by agencies and interested parties to assist in the recovery of the fin whale... Following are the threat
rankings relative to the recovery of the fin whale:
- Anthropogenic noise from ship noise, oil and gas exploration, and military sonar and explosives, and competition for resources were ranked as having an unknown impact
- Ship strikes and loss of prey base due to climate and ecosystem change or shifts in habitat were ranked as unknown but potentially high
- Fishery interactions (gillnet, trawl, pot/trap, purse seine, and longline), anthropogenic noise from coastal development, disturbance from whale watching and other vessels, contaminants and pollutants, disease, injury from marine debris, disturbance due to research, and predation and natural mortality were ranked as having a low impact; and
- Direct harvest was ranked as having a medium impact.
- No threats were identified as having a high impact relative to the recovery of the fin whale.
75 Fed. Reg. 42684 / Vol. 75, No. 140 / Thursday, July 22, 2010 / Notices
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Endangered and Threatened Species; Initiation of a 5-year Review of the Baiji/Chinese River Dolphin/Yangtze River Dolphin
SUMMARY: NMFS announces a 5-year review of the Baiji/Chinese River Dolphin/Yangtze River Dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). A 5-year review is a periodic process conducted to ensure that the listing classification of a species is accurate and it is based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review; therefore, we are requesting submission of any such information on the Baiji/Chinese River Dolphin/Yangtze River Dolphin that has become available. Based on the results of this 5- year review, we will make the requisite finding under the ESA. DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we must receive your information no later than September 20, 2010. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time.
According to NOAA, the Chinese river dolphin is a freshwater dolphin and one of the most endangered animals on Earth. A recent extensive survey of this species resulted in no sightings. Many scientists fear that it is functionally extinct. See physorg.com Due to the poor visibility in the murky Yangtze River, the Yangtze river dolphin depends largely on underwater sound for orientation, feeding, and communication. Though it has been described in classical Chinese literature and folklore as early as 200 B.C., the Yangtze river dolphin was not known to the western world until 1916, when Charles M. Hoy, the son of an American missionary, shot one while duck hunting on Dongting Lake, China. Photo from IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an organization that helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges.