PRESS RELEASE: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today proposed to protect Puget Sound’s Southern Resident killer whales under the federal Endangered Species Act, the nation’s strongest conservation law. The orcas declined by 20% over five years during the 1990s, and Endangered Species Act protection ensures that NMFS will have the world’s best conservation tools at its disposal as work begins to recover the whales from the brink of extinction.
"This is a victory for sound science, the killer whales, and the people of the Pacific Northwest," said Brent Plater, attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "However, if Congress continues on its path to gut the Endangered Species Act, the best tools available to protect the killer whale will be ripped right out of the hands of the scientists and resource managers in the Pacific Northwest."
Today’s decision comes nearly two years after a U.S. District Court found unlawful the Bush administration’s June 25, 2002 announcement that the killer whales are not significant enough to protect. The final rule differs from the proposed rule announced nearly one year ago by listing the Southern Residents as "endangered" rather than "threatened." An "endangered" listing provides stronger, more immediate protections to the killer whales than a "threatened" listing.
"Southern Resident killer whales have been integral to the ecological, social, and economic well being of the Pacific Northwest for nearly all of human history," said Plater. "Providing the Southern Residents the protections of the Endangered Species Act ensures that we can give back to these whales and insure their survival."