The federal government says sperm whales in the northern Gulf of Mexico may be different enough from others in their endangered species to merit consideration on their own.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries finding Thursday is a response to a petition filed in December by WildEarth Guardians, a conservation group based in Santa Fe, N.M.
It triggers a study that must be completed by Dec. 14.
WildEarth Guardians' endangered species advocate, Taylor Jones, says the group is happy but not surprised, since their petition is based largely on information in NOAA Fisheries' recovery plan for sperm whales.
Texas A&M professor Randall Davis says the whales in the Gulf are mostly females and youngsters and live in deep water near the mouth of the Mississippi River.