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Endangered Species Act Turns 40

  • Endangered species—in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

  • Threatened species—likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.

Leadership Message

Recovery Stories

The ESA has been successful in preventing species extinction—less than 1 percent of the species listed have gone extinct. We have delisted the Eastern population of Steller sea lion, our first delisting because of recovery since 1994.

Partnerships with States

Look Who's Back: Sturgeon Spawning Again in Chesapeake Bay

Steller Performance—Recovery of the Eastern population of Steller sea lions

ESA in Action
Click on the links below to listen to some of our favorite podcasts featuring endangered species research.

The Keratin Connection: A Breakthrough in Sea Turtle Research
Saving Coho Salmon: It's All About the Timing
To Protect Fin Whales, Scientists Work on Their Listening Skills 
Blinded by the Noise—Whales and Dolphins in a Noisy Ocean

Learn more about Endangered Species Day

What will be your legacy? Ways to help:

-Volunteer for federal or local projects to preserve and protect nature
-Host or Join an event for Endangered Species Day: May 16, 2014 Exit
-Participate in the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest
-Do your part to protect estuaries and other marine habitat
-Learn more about endangered species and the ocean 
-Be an informed seafood consumer

This year we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). President Nixon signed the ESA into law on December 28, 1973. Congress understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation's living resources would become extinct. 

There are approximately 2,100 total species listed under the ESA. Of these species, approximately 1,480 are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and its waters; the remainder are foreign species.

Species diversity and environment health are part of the natural legacy we leave for future generations. Each plant, animal, and their physical environment are part of a much more complex web of life, where the removal of a single species could cause a series of negative events affecting many others. Endangered species serve as a sentinel, indicating larger ecological problems that could alter ecosystem functions. The ESA is both a mechanism to help guide our conservation efforts and a reminder that future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy the same great benefits from the natural world.

We Will Continue the Work We Started

Today the ocean is a very different place than it was 40 years ago. Thanks to the ESA, we now understand many of the threats faced by marine and anadromous species and are bringing them under control. The populations of many listed species are increasing, aided by our recovery efforts and time. Still, the populations of many species continue to decline and many more species are being listed. NOAA Fisheries scientists are developing the next generation of ocean observing systems, which will give us Increased awareness of what's going on in the ocean, adapt our management, and respond to challenges of a changing climate. We will continue developing new technologies and management approaches, and our work with national and international partners, to ensure the ESA remains effective in an interdependent, rapidly-changing world.

ESA Turns 40: What’s Your Legacy?

In its 40 year existence, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has helped recover over 30 species, including the Eastern Steller sea lion, and saved numerous other species from extinction. Today, the Act protects over 2,140 listed species.

Tell us on Twitter what the ESA means to you, 
using #myESA

  • What do you value about the ESA? How have you been affected by it?
  • Did you grow up with the ESA? Have you been able to see an endangered or threatened species because of it? Tell us what you think using #myESA.

We’ll be tweeting out more ESA 40th information using #esa40

Are you an artist? Learn more about the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. Click the image below to see the 2013 winners.