Feds reject argument by ultra- conservative property rights group
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A tiny population of threatened killer whales in Puget Sound will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The fringe property rights advocacy group claimed, based in invalid science, that the Puget Sound “southern resident” killer whales are not a distinct population. In response, the federal government conducted a year-long review of the status and eligibility of the orcas for Endangered Species Act protection and confirmed that the whale’s endangered listing remains warranted.
“It’s a huge relief that orcas will stay protected. Only about 85 southern resident killer whales are left, and their Endangered Species Act listing is critical to the population’s recovery in Puget Sound,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the 2001 petition that first prompted federal protection for the animals in 2005.
The NMFS affirmed that this population is unique, with new science confirming that Puget Sound’s orcas are distinct and deserve protection.
“Killer whales are a symbol of the wild and beautiful Pacific Northwest. Protecting these orcas is protecting our natural heritage, and it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to take away their safety net and make them vulnerable to extinction,” said Sakashita.
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, southern resident orcas were protected as endangered in 2005 based on numerous factors making their population distinct. Unlike some orca populations, southern residents feed extensively on salmon; they have a unique dialect; and they are genetically unique. The orcas are severely threatened by pollution, past overcollection by the aquarium industry, and habitat destruction, which also threatens the salmon that make up the orcas’ diet.