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An adult sea turtle on a sandy beach.
Information icon Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Photo © Karla Morales.

Overseeing the Endangered Species Act

One of the primary responsibilities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is America’s strongest conservation law. Originally passed by Congress in 1973, the ESA is jointly administered by the Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The Service has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine. Some marine animals like the sea turtles have shared responsibility between the Service and NMFS, while the Service has responsibility for the West Indian manatee.

All species of plants and animals, except pests insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened. Learn more about how we work to conserve species in the Southeast region.

The Caribbean endangered species program works to protect and recover threatened and endangered species, and to conserve at-risk species so that listing under the ESA is unnecessary. The program uses a variety of tools in partnership with federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) government, municipal governments, private landowners, and other citizens to conserve listed and at-risk species.

Download a complete list of threatened and endangered species in Puerto Rico and the USVI. A species list is also available for each of the municipalities in Puerto Rico and the USVI:

Looking for more specific information on a species? Check out our species profiles, fact sheets, or search the Environmental Conservation Online System with the form below:

Listing Threatened and Endangered Species

Using the best available science, the Service determines whether or not to designate a species as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Threatened or endangered species receive the full protection of the ESA.

Critical Habitat

In the Caribbean, the Service has designated critical habitat for 15 species and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) designated aquatic critical habitat for the green sea turtle. A more complete description of the 16 critical habitat designations with maps for Puerto Rico and USVI is also available in the Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS).

At-Risk Species Conservation

At-risk conservation is an effort to prevent species from going extinct by identifying these at-risk fish, wildlife and plants before they might be listed. There are opportunities for voluntary conservation actions using the best available science and conservation to preclude the need to list species and improve habitats for listed and at-risk species alike. The Service collaborates with state wildlife agencies and private and public partners, providing funding and technical expertise to improve the species populations.

A plant or animal is considered “at-risk” when:

  • It is proposed for listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act,
  • It is a candidate species for listing, or
  • It has been petitioned by a third party for listing.


Section 7 of the ESA requires federal agencies to use their existing authorities to conserve threatened and endangered species and, in consultation with the Service, to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify their critical habitat.

For more information about consultation under the Endangered Species Act, visit the National consultation webpage. Learn more about project evaluations.

Learn about what are the minimum requirements for project evaluations. Download the fact sheet.


The ultimate goal of the endangered species program is to recover listed species to a point where populations become secure and self-sustaining. A cornerstone of the recovery process is to understand and remove the threats to listed species. Recovery plans are the guiding documents that gather our most up-to-date knowledge of the species, and outline a course of action. Learn more about the Recovery Program.

Search recovery plans.


Learn more about permits for endangered or threatened species. Check on the status of a recovery or interstate commerce permit in the Southeast.


Learn more about Endangered Species grants to states, territories and private landowners.

More information


José A. Cruz-Burgos, Caribbean Endangered Species Program Coordinator

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Looking for a media contact? Reach out to a regional spokesperson.

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