Snow crab made the news recently, their populations crashing seemingly overnight. We wouldn’t know, except that they’re a sought-after commercial fishery.
Thousands of species are in decline across the continent. Many are obscure- so poorly known, and poorly understood, that conservation biologists have only a species description and a list of sites where they’ve been found previously. Data on geographic range, population sizes, habitat preferences, breeding season, fecundity, and other factors which inform conservation are blank spaces on the map towards species recovery. Many state agencies don’t have the money to research these species- their funding is generated through hunting and fishing license sales, appropriated through state legislatures, or both. Federal funding doesn’t kick in until the species are listed as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act- and that can’t happen unless the data justifying listing exists.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) helps remedy that catch-22. It provides millions of dollars to states to generate basic research that would inform conservation of declining species, before they’re candidates for federal listing. But RAWA’s stalled in the senate, and it’ll need to pass by the end of the year.
You can help- the National Wildlife Federation has put together a petition to encourage passage, you can sign here.