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Wed Jan 22 2014Expanded Habitat Protection Sought for Endangered Orcas on West Coast
Wed Jan 22 2014Declining Salmon Populations, Pollution, Ocean Noise Threaten Iconic Whale Species
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal petition on January 16 with the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect more critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident population of orcas. If successful the proposal would extend Endangered Species Act protection to the whales’ winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. After several drastic declines, only 81 killer whales remain in the Southern Resident population.
“These whales somewhat miraculously survived multiple threats over the years, including deliberate shootings and live capture for marine theme parks,” said Sarah Uhlemann, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The direct killings have stopped, but we can’t expect orcas to thrive once again if we don’t protect their critical habitat.”
New research, including satellite tracking data from first half of 2013, reveals that the whales travel extensively along the West Coast during the winter and early spring, regularly congregating near coastal rivers to feed on migrating salmon. The Center’s petition seeks to protect these areas off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat. Human activities in and near coastal waters threaten these whales by reducing salmon numbers, generating toxic pollution and increasing ocean noise, which disrupts the orcas’ ability to communicate and locate prey.
Read More | PDF of Petition