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A small, black and white bird flies over ocean waters.
Information icon Black-capped petrel off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC. Photo © Brian Patteson, seabirding.com used with permission.

Proposed listing of the black-capped petrel as threatened

What action is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking?

The Service is proposing to list the black-capped petrel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

What is the black-capped petrel?

The black-capped petrel is a seabird that breeds on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It travels long distances to forage as far away as open ocean waters off the coast of Virginia.

How did the Service determine that the black-capped petrel is threatened?

The Service created a species status assessment (SSA) for the petrel. The SSA compiled all the best and most current science and data about the petrel. The SSA was then peer reviewed. The scientific information in the SSA led the Service to the conclusion that the petrel is threatened. Historically, the species’ nesting range was more widespread across four Caribbean islands; the current nesting range is confined to a single island of Hispaniola. Deforestation affects the petrel’s nesting habitat and is one of the greatest threats to the species.

Why is the black-capped petrel’s status proposed as threatened instead of endangered?

Under the ESA, endangered applies to a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range; threatened applies to an animal or plant that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The petrel currently is not at risk of extinction throughout its range because the species has retained resiliency, with four extant breeding populations on Hispaniola. However, the risk of extinction in the foreseeable future is high because the remaining populations are small, suitable habitat is limited for additional nesting areas, and stressors on the petrel are expected to increase.

What are the threats to the black-capped petrel?

Threats include deforestation, anthropogenic fires, agricultural development and changes in climate patterns with increasing temperatures and precipitation events. According to the SSA, the overwhelming dependence of the human population of Haiti on wood-based cooking fuels (e.g., charcoal and firewood) has caused substantial deforestation in both Haiti and adjacent regions of the Dominican Republic. Future increases in the human population of Haiti will almost certainly result in increased deforestation throughout nesting areas.

What are the black-capped petrel’s current and historical ranges?

In the past, petrels have been found nesting on three Caribbean islands. The only known nesting sites at present are four locations in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which are on the island of Hispaniola.

How many black-capped petrels are left?

Estimates are 2,000-4,000 remaining petrels; however, because the birds are so difficult to survey (they are nocturnal and highly pelagic, coming ashore only once each year to nest in underground burrows in inaccessible mountainous regions), the true population is unknown.

Is the Service designating critical habitat for the petrel?

Critical habitat can only be designated in U.S. territories or waters that contain features that are necessary for the conservation of the species. There are no areas within the U.S. territories or waters that can be defined as critical habitat for the petrel. The areas that are essential to the species occur outside of United States and are associated with the breeding grounds in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. When not on their breeding grounds, they are able to use a wide area of marine habitat for foraging.

Is the Service proposing to exempt any activities from the ESA’s requirements?

Because the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) already provides protections for direct take and U.S. import and export of birds, the Service is proposing a special rule under Section 4(d) of the act that states, as long as there is full compliance with the MBTA, we will not impose additional permitting requirements under the ESA.

How can the public comment on this proposal?

We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before December 10, 2018. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in the Federal eRulemaking Portal by November 23, 2018, 45 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Citizens may submit comments by one of the following methods:

Electronically

Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–RX–ES–2018–0043, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

By hard copy

Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–RX–ES–2018–0043; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

The Service requests that citizens send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us.

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