Lawsuit Filed to Protect Atlantic Seabird Threatened by Offshore Oil Drilling

Black-capped Petrel Imperiled by Obama Plan for Oil Leasing Off Atlantic Coast

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—(ENEWSPF)–June 22, 2015.  The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s failure to determine if endangered species protections for the black-capped petrel are warranted. These cliff-dwelling seabirds forage off the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Florida; they were once believed to be extinct, but a few breeding colonies remain in the Caribbean.

“Petrels have a deadly attraction to oily surfaces, so delaying their protection while moving forward with new offshore drilling is a recipe for extinction,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. “Before this bird’s fishing grounds are opened up for oil drilling, the federal government must meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.”

On September 1, 2011, WildEarth Guardians submitted a petition to protect the black-capped petrel under the Endangered Species Act because of its low population and threats to its survival. The Act requires the Service to determine whether listing the black-capped petrel as threatened or endangered was warranted no later than one year after it received the petition, or Sept. 13, 2012. To date — more than two years after that response was due — the Service has not made a decision, despite being notified in April of the Center’s intent to file today’s lawsuit.

“Delay can mean death when it comes to protecting endangered species like the black-capped petrel,” said Lopez. 

There are only 13 known breeding colonies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs. The petrel is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the international authority on endangered species; it is threatened by the destruction of its breeding habitat through deforestation, as well as contamination and oil and gas development.

President Obama recently opened the Atlantic Coast to seismic exploration activities for oil and gas, and the Department of the Interior is reviewing 10 applications for permits. Additionally, the administration proposed a plan to offer an area off the mid-Atlantic for drilling in its five-year plan for offshore oil leases. These industrial activities threaten the petrel and its habitat.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.