A new federal lawsuit will soon challenge the unauthorized taking of endangered species by the continuing flood of oil soaking the Gulf of Mexico. Southern Environmental Law Center and Defenders of Wildlife will sue BP directly under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).
Endangered species in the Gulf include five kinds of whales, Hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, and leatherback sea turtles, sturgeon, sawfish, the West Indian manatee, and two coral species. The ESA prohibits “taking” any of them, which the law defines as meaning “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” “Taking” may include “significant habitat modification or degradation that kills or injures fish or wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, spawning, rearing, migrating, feeding or sheltering.”
Announcing the intent to sue letter sent to British Petroleum, Mike Senatore, vice president for Conservation Law at Defenders of Wildlife emphasized that
BP must be held accountable for the grave threat posed to sea turtles, whales, seabirds and other endangered wildlife as the result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Not only does the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico pose an immediate and long-term threat to endangered wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, but the company’s unprecedented application of chemical dispersants poses additional risks.
Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Catherine Wannamaker added that the environmental organizations are
concerned about the oil-covered wildlife that we may see onshore, but we’re also extremely concerned about what’s happening below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. This is shaping up as an unprecedented disaster for the people and wildlife of the Gulf. From plankton to endangered sperm whales to fishermen, BP has put an entire ecosystem at risk and must be held accountable.
Even if the oil torrent is plugged or slowed, the environmental disaster that started in the Gulf will continue expanding for decades. Oil and chemical dispersants will continue to spread through ocean currents, affecting sea life far from the Deepwater Horizon site. Wildlife is already being destroyed on an increasingly horrific scale, with the numbers of killed animals and birds far exceeding those found oiled but still alive.
Our Portland, Oregon animal law firm strongly supports aggressive litigation against BP for the full extent of the Deepwater Horizon debacle on wildlife. BP is supposedly paying for rescue efforts—but that’s the least that the multibillion dollar global corporation can do. Please join in holding it fully accountable by donating at the links below.
Related Web Resources
Southern Environmental Law Center
Defenders of Wildlife
NOAA, Endangered and Threatened Species and Critical Habitats under the Jurisdiction of the NOAA Fisheries Service: Gulf of Mexico