The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced a proposed rule to list the Atlantic humpback dolphin under the Endangered Species Act.
The move was in response to a 2021 petition filed by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and VIVA Vaquita.
Following a 60-day public comment period, NMFS has until April 2024 to make a final decision on protections.
The Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii) is the most endangered of the four species of coastal humpback dolphins, which are all threatened by human activities. The species is found only along the western African coast, ranging through at least 13 countries’ waters from Western Sahara south to Angola.
Scientists estimate that no more than 3,000 Atlantic humpback dolphins remain, in fragmented groups of tens to hundreds of animals, and the species is already recognized as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “Red List.”
Atlantic humpback dolphins are among the least-known species of dolphins in the world, and this has hindered implementation of effective conservation measures. Although some countries in the dolphins’ range have established marine protected areas, few laws or regulations exist specifically to conserve the species.
Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at AWI, says:
“We are very pleased that NMFS has recognized the need to extend ESA protections to this little-known dolphin. This listing would improve the species’ survival prospects, increase global awareness, and generate funds for important science during this unprecedented extinction crisis.”
Check out the proposed rule here.