Washington Fish Wildlife Wants Orca on Endangered List

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed last week that Puget Sound’s orcas be added to the state’s list of endangered species, citing a dramatic decline in resident whales.

Providing endangered status at the state level doesn’t do as much as a federal listing—which is being reconsidered—but environmentalists and orca researchers hope it will help.

“The state is in the driving role when it comes to pollution-control issues and habitat restoration and habitat destruction,” said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound. “The state can do a lot. This is very helpful.”

“It’s a good idea to list them,” said David Bain, a researcher with the University of Washington who studies the effects of sonar and other noise on marine mammals. “The population is small. … They made the right decision there.”

The resident orca population once numbered about 200, but has dropped to a current estimate of 83. A shortage of salmon, their favorite food, combined with high levels of toxins and harassment by overzealous whale watchers are blamed for the decline.

SOURCESource: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/162785_orcas02.html