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Posted by Chris on February 19, 2004 at 02:25:11:

In Reply to: Xantus' Murrelet gets protected status in California posted by Chris on February 18, 2004 at 20:42:14:

News Release: For Immediate Release
February 18, 2004

California Fish and Game Commission Lists Xantus's Murrelet as a Threatened Species
Contacts: Esther Burkett, DFG Wildlife Biologist, (916) 654-4273; John Ugoretz, DFG Senior Marine Biologist, (805) 560-6758

The California Fish and Game Commission has made a finding to list the Xantus's Murrelet as a Threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The Commission must now go through the regulatory process to add it to the Threatened Species List.

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recommended the listing after conducting a year-long review of the status of the species. A public notice of this action by the Commission will be published in the California Regulatory Notice Register, and the final adoption is scheduled at the May meeting in San Diego.

A petition to list the species as Threatened was submitted to the Commission in April 2002 by the Pacific Seabird Group (PSG). The Xantus's Murrelet (murrelet) is a small seabird belonging to the family Alcidae that includes murres and puffins. The murrelet has a limited worldwide distribution, nesting on only six of the California Channel Islands, and six islands along the coast of Baja, Mexico. The population estimate for California is 1,730 pairs, and 2,425 pairs in Mexico. Approximately 51 percent of the California population nests on Santa Barbara Island, the smallest of the Channel Islands, measuring only one square mile in size.

Murrelets spend most of their lives at sea, and eat a variety of fish and small crustaceans. They only come ashore for nesting purposes, and are nocturnal in their nesting activities. They nest in crevices on steep slopes, under shrubs, and in sea caves. Predators include deer mice, barn owls, western gulls, rats, feral cats, and peregrine falcons. Predation on eggs by deer mice, and on adult murrelets by barn owls appear to be the main factors contributing to population decline. Human activities on Santa Barbara Island caused vegetation changes that have resulted in altered predator-prey relationships. Artificial lighting and noise from boating and fishing activities may also have contributed to declines.

At this time, the candidacy incidental take regulations remain in effect. These regulations were established after the first public hearing on the murrelet petition in October 2002 and provide some protection for murrelets during the breeding season (primarily Feb. 1 through July 15) within one nautical mile of Santa Barbara and Anacapa Islands. DFG is also developing protective measures for the murrelet and other sensitive seabirds in the Market Squid Fishery Management Plan scheduled for adoption by the Commission later this year.

DFG intends to work with other agencies and private interests to increase awareness of the effects of artificial lights and other disturbance factors on Xantus's Murrelets and other nocturnal seabirds. Artificial lighting causes many animals to become disoriented at night, resulting in injuries from collisions, and mortality from predators that capitalize on the illuminated environment and the dazed and vulnerable prey. DFG will also work to recover murrelet populations by increasing cooperation and coordination among various agencies and non-governmental organizations to prioritize and implement management recommendations, establish recovery goals, and share in research and monitoring activities. DFG's immediate conservation goal is to stop the existing population decline.

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