Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rebounding endangered species now a nuisance?

Endangered species programs are put in place to protect species whose populations have dwindled to low levels.  The programs may limit human activity in certain areas or at certain times of the day/year and this can be a cause for tension among businesses seeking to use areas.  But what happens when those programs are successful and now the local communities and businesses can be in conflict with the larger population of the very species that they were trying to save?

Sea otter populations in the north Pacific went from 1,000 individuals in the 1800s to now over 107,000 individuals. Image of Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) by Caleb Slemmons, National Ecological Observatory Network, Bugwood.org

For marine mammals that have rebounded due to conservation efforts, they may now be in direct competition with fishing businesses.  Due to nesting and young rearing, entire sections of beach may be closed to the public, impacting businesses that thrive on the traffic and sales.  Now that were are faced with the possibility of removing many long-listed species from the protection of their programs, how are we going to ensure that they don't end up back on the list?  The best thing is to establish a plan for their return to sustainable populations levels before they even come off the list.  This will help local communities and businesses to know how to plan around the species eventual return to long-deserted areas.