Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 11, 2023

Contact:

Kristen Monsell, (914) 806-3467, kmonsell@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Gulf of Mexico Wildlife From Offshore Drilling

Birds, Sea Turtles, Manatees Threatened By Oil, Gas Extraction

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Interior Department for failing to adequately protect endangered whooping cranes, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, manatees and other imperiled species from the dangers of offshore oil and gas extraction in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today’s notice says the agency’s Endangered Species Act analysis fails to properly consider or mitigate the risk of oil spills, bird collisions with offshore platforms, manatee vessel strikes and climate change, among other things. It was sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

“The Biden administration can’t keep approving more drilling and ignoring offshore oil extraction’s huge threats to these endangered animals,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center. “Birds, sea turtles, manatees and many other species shouldn’t have to suffer and die because the oil industry is fouling the Gulf of Mexico. A full science-based analysis will show that offshore drilling is just too risky to wildlife and our climate and should be phased out.”

Today’s filing also says new information demonstrates even greater threats from offshore drilling than the 2018 analysis describes. This includes recent dramatic declines in the Gulf manatee population, the recent decline of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and new science showing that offshore oil and gas drilling does more harm to the climate than previously understood.

From 2017 to 2019 the Florida subspecies of manatee lost nearly 7% of its population each year. These manatees also began suffering from starvation in December 2020, in numbers so significant that scientists refer to it as an “unusual mortality event.” Nearly 2,000 manatees died in 2021 and 2022 combined. This two-year mortality record represents more than 20% of all manatees in Florida.

Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf have been decreasing in size, which some studies suggest may be linked to harmful effects from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Smaller turtles could have more difficulty recovering from future spills.

The bureaus manage and permit oil and gas activity in federal waters. They are required under the Endangered Species Act to conduct a comprehensive analysis, in consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, of the potential effects and harms from these activities on threatened and endangered birds, nesting sea turtles, manatees and other species and their habitats.

Today’s notice is required before the Center can file a lawsuit to compel the bureaus to comply with the Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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