'Happy Feet' Not So Happy

"Happy Feet" features three penguin species -- not only emperors ("Mumble") but Adelies ("Ramon") and rockhoppers ("Lovelace"), says Reichert -- and ends with what appears to be a United Nations ban on fishing in Antarctica and plenty of food for all penguins.

The reality, he says, is that enormous catches of krill (tiny shrimp-like creatures) and other "forage fish" not eaten by humans are already being taken by large commercial fleets, robbing penguins of food, and there are expected to be much bigger catches to come.

"Krill are eaten by many penguins -- it's the main food of emperors -- as well as other animals including whales, seals and many seabirds," says Reichert. "We will soon see gigantic trawlers -- boats that can take 120,000 metric tons of krill in one season, as much krill as the entire international fleet in the southern oceans takes now."

Humans don't eat much krill -- directly, he says, although it is used in nutritional supplements. However, it has become an increasingly attractive food source for the burgeoning farmed fish industry known as aquaculture.

"The krill are ground up to feed to farmed salmon, and because krill are reddish in color, they are ideal for farm raised salmon because it gives their meat a natural red color," says Reichert.

Otherwise, he explains, fish farmers have to use red and pink dyes in fish food to produce the color buyers like.

Endangered Species Act and Environmental Tactics

"We are quite familiar with the Center for Biological Diversity," says Valerie Fellows of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "They bring many petitions for endangered species."

Fellows says the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service cannot comment on the merits of the petition before they receive and study it, but a similar petition filed last year by the CBD and other environmental groups - seeking endangered status for Polar Bears - has passed a first stage of review toward gaining that status.

Courts have given the government a deadline of Dec. 27 to present its ultimate determination on polar bears.

CBD officers tell ABC News they believe the Endangered Species Act contains language that requires the government to act to prevent global warming when it can be shown the warming is harming an endangered species.

The CBD cites language in the act that prevents the federal government from carrying out, authorizing or funding any action that might "jeopardize the continued existence" of any listed species.

"When we get a species listed that is threatened by global warming," including polar bears and penguins, says the CBD'S Kassie Siegel, "we intend to bring a case under the Endangered Species Act against the government to act to curb greenhouse gases."

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