Distinct Population Segments
DPS. Not the Department for Public Safety.
One of the most important aspects of the Endangered Species Act is the recognition of different subspecies, varieties, or Distinct Population Segments of species.
Many marine mammals – like orcas and humpbacks – are found in every ocean and are similar enough to be currently considered one species worldwide, but local populations are very different from each other, do not interbreed, and may require very specific actions to help them survive.
This is key for protecting small, unique communities like the Southern Resident orcas. Although Orcinus orca is currently considered a single species worldwide, designating the Southern Residents as a DPS recognizes their genetic distinction from all other orcas, and that we can’t just “replace” them with orcas from other populations. As a DPS, they have the benefit of protection from the ESA that is specific to what they need to survive.