Today’s announcement that the U.S. Department of the Interior will remove the Brown Pelican from the Endangered Species List highlights the remarkable recovery of this bird over the last several decades. While supportive of the decision, officials at Audubon California stated that continued threats to the birds habitat will require continued conservation if the Brown Pelican is going to fully return to its former glory. “Obviously, the dramatic return of the Brown Pelican over the last few decades is a tremendous victory for the Endangered Species Act,” said Graham Chisholm, executive director of Audubon California. “But given the threats that still exist, it is important that the Department of Interior and others continue their efforts to protect this important species.”
The Brown Pelican was first declared endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, the precursor to the current Endangered Species Act. At that time, pollutants such as DDT had driven the species to near extinction. Brown Pelicans along the Atlantic Coast and in the South were removed from the list in 1985.
It is estimated that there the global population of Brown Pelicans has reached about 620,000. Of these, about 172,000 live along the California and Mexico coast. This latest move by the Department of the Interior removes all Endangered Species Act protections for the bird.
Although the Brown Pelican population has increased substantially, much of its breeding grounds face near constant threat from human activity, particularly pollution risks such as oil and sewage spills. Moreover, the Brown Pelican needs fish to survive, which links the species to the continued health of marine fisheries.
“For many Californians, our magnificent coastline is part of our natural identity, and the Brown Pelican is a treasured part of that image,” added Chisholm. “That is all the more reason why we need to remain diligent about protecting this bird from the many threats that it still faces.”