US population of Bryde’s whale declared as critically endangered

Gulf of Mexico (GoM) Bryde’s whales are genetically isolated from other baleen whale populations and are only found in the deep water canyons of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.  As few as a dozen individuals may remain. 

The decline in population has been associated with human impacts including entanglements in fishing gear, ship strikes, ocean noise, and the ongoing impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.  Researchers estimate that nearly half of the remaining population of GoM Bryde’s whales was exposed to oil as a result of the spill, which impacted more than 14 species of whales and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers also estimate that more than 5,000 cetaceans may have been killed as a result.  Follow up studies confirm that long term impacts from the spill continue to impact marine mammals in the Gulf as chronically ill dolphins and an increasing number of dolphin still births have been detected. 

In spite of the known impacts of fossil fuel exploration on marine mammals, the Trump Administration’s US Department of Interior announced last March its plans to open areas currently off limits in Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale habitat to oil and gas exploration.  Of further concern is the proposed SECURE Energy Act (“Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy,” or H.R. 4239) which, if passed, would gut core provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to fast-track seismic airgun surveys and other industrial activities that can harm whales and dolphins.  Seismic surveys produce loud pulsing sounds 24 hours a day in search of fossil fuel deposits and are known to harass, harm, and even kill whales and dolphins. 

While the link to climate change from burning fossil fuels is well known, the need for whale populations to recover as a means to combat climate change is only beginning to come to light as emerging research underscores the critical role whales play in enhancing carbon sequestration. 

“It is beyond tragic that one of the richest and most well developed countries in the world is willing to drive to extinction the very species it needs to survive” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director for WDC’s North American office.  “This is not about energy independence; it’s about profits for a few at the expense of the planet.” 

 What You Can Do:

  • US Citizens:  Ask Congress to oppose the SECURE Energy Act
  • Non-US Citizens:  Please forward this to your US friends and family

Your support gives whales and dolphins a voice and a fighting chance.  Please consider donating to WDC’s fighting fund to defend the whales and dolphins that care for our shared planet.