Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 25, 2016

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108,

Feds Launch Review of Endangered West Coast Orcas

Conservation Groups Urge Immediate Expansion of
Critical Habitat Protections for Southern Resident Killer Whales  

SEATTLE— The National Marine Fisheries Service today announced a five-year review of endangered southern resident killer whales, which are down to just 84 orcas, to assess whether they are properly protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Fisheries Service last year announced plans to expand existing critical habitat protections from the killer whales’ summer habitat in Puget Sound to include 9,000 square miles of their winter foraging habitat along the West Coast sometime in 2017, but conservation groups have urged officials to speed up that timeline.

“These iconic orcas need more federal protection, not less. This status review will show these orcas are still endangered and that we need to quickly address threats from pollution, noise and lack of prey,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been working to save these orcas since petitioning for their Endangered Species Act protections in 2001.

The Fisheries Service will accept public comments for the next 90 days and is soliciting new science since the last five-year review was completed in 2011. Southern residents are threatened by habitat loss, declines in chinook salmon runs and other food sources, ocean noise and environmental toxins, which accumulate in orcas over their long lifespans. Recent studies have shown that maritime noise is affecting their ability to find food and mates, and that persistent organic pollutants in these orcas are harming their reproductive and endocrine systems.

“These killer whales are at a crossroads,” Sakashita said. “We need to act now to address the immediate threats to their survival while we continue to develop long-term remedies in the coming years.”

For more information on these orcas, click here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places..

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