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Species in the Spotlight

A Message from Eileen Sobeck, Head of NOAA Fisheries
May 14, 2015

May 15th is Endangered Species Day and it is a great time to highlight what we do as an agency to protect and recover the 80 plus threatened and endangered marine species we are responsible across the nation. This year, we have even more to talk about. Today, we released our Recovering Threatened and Endangered Species FY 2013-2014 Report to Congress and launched a new, year-long campaign to draw special attention to eight of our ESA-listed species.

Our eight spotlight species are:

  • Atlantic Salmon Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment (DPS)
  • Central California Coast Coho Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU)
  • Cook Inlet Beluga Whale DPS
  • Hawaiian Monk Seal
  • Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook ESU
  • Southern Resident Killer Whale DPS
  • White Abalone 

Our campaign, “Species in the Spotlight: Survive to Thrive” is a concerted effort to rally individuals, agencies, groups, tribes, institutions, and organizations large and small to help these species survive. There is a role for everyone. Throughout the coming year, NOAA Fisheries will engage public and private sector partners in collaborative actions to spur recovery for these eight species because we cannot do this alone. This effort will be guided by detailed five-year action plans for each species that will build upon existing recovery plans and detail the focused efforts we plan to take over the coming years. We want these species, as well as all of our listed resources, to survive and thrive.

How were these eight species selected? All eight are listed as endangered, their populations are declining, and the best available information points to their extinction if action isn’t taken. These species are considered a recovery priority #1, which is defined as a species whose extinction is almost certain in the immediate future because of a rapid population decline or habitat destruction, whose limiting factors and threats are well understood and the needed management actions are known and have a high probability of success.  We know the threats facing these species and understand the management actions we can take that will have a high probability of success.  Our goal is to focus NOAA’s recovery actions, and motivate partners and interested citizens to work with us on these actions to turn this situation around.

The “Species in the Spotlight” initiative will guide agency actions where we have the discretion to make critical investments to safeguard these species, which are among those most endangered domestically. The strategy will not divert resources away from the important and continued efforts to support all ESA-listed species under our authority.  Many of our species have long-standing conservation programs supported by multiple partners.  We remain committed to those programs. 

Having worked on behalf of marine species and their habitats for many years before I came to NOAA and now as the AA for Fisheries, I am particularly excited about this campaign. With focused effort, targeted resources, and even more collaborative partnerships we can make a difference for these eight species. I believe we have the vision, the tools, and the many dedicated partners we need to significantly reduce, stabilize, or reverse their rate of decline by 2020.

The ESA has been successful in preventing species extinctions—less than 1 percent of the species listed under the ESA have been delisted because of extinction. While we have recovered and delisted a small percentage of listed species since 1973, we would likely have seen hundreds of species go extinct without the ESA. The act provides a critical safety net for our trust resources, but more work needs to be done. I look forward to your support for this campaign and welcome any ideas you have to launch or strengthen existing partnerships around these species that will help ensure we do not lose any of them on our watch. 

The report and details on the spotlight species and the campaign are available on our website.


Eileen Sobeck
Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries