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Endangered Species Act
"Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed," said Richard Nixon as he signed the Endangered Species Act on Decmeber 23,1973.
The ESA provides protection for species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and the ecosystems on which they depend for survival. A species is considered endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future. Under the Act, the term "species" includes species and subspecies of fish, wildlife and plants, as well as geographically distinct populations of vertebrate wildlife,including fish, even though the species as a whole may not be endangered. This flexibility in the Act allows action to be taken to protect certain members of a species before the entire population becomes threatened.
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Marine Mammal Protection Act
In 1972 Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), one of the first laws developed to protect a separate category of wildlife, and makes it illegal for any person under legal jurisdiction of the United States to kill, hunt, injure or harass all species of marine mammals, regardless of their population. The MMPA also makes it illegal to import marine mammals or products made from them into the United States. Marine mammals protected under this Act include: dolphins, whales, seals, sea lions, sea otters, polar bears, manatees, dugongs and walruses.
Some exceptions to the MMPA allow certain numbers of marine mammals to be collected for scientific and public display purposes, to be hunted for subsistence use by natives of the North Pacific and Arctic coasts, and to be caught incidental to commercial fishing operations.
Responsibilities for the MMPA is shared by two federal agencies. The National Marine Fisheries Service of the Commerce Department protects all members of Cetacea -- whales, dolphins and porpoises -- and all members of Pinnipedia -- seals -- except walruses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects all other species of marine mammals -- walruses, sea otters, polar bears, manatees and dugongs.
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Which species are endangered or threatened?
As of October 27,2008, according to a report compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over 1,350 species are considered endangered or threatened that are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and its surrounding waters.
Of the 1,355 species that are listed by the ESA and MMPA, 612 are animals that include Insects, Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Mammals, Corals, Arachnids, Amphibians, Clams and Crustceans. In the plant group, the 746 species nclude Flowering plants, Conifers & Cycads, Ferns & Allies and Lichens.
For more information go to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species.