Action timeline

May 1, 2001 – The Center filed a citizen petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service to have Puget Sound’s orcas listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

July 1, 2002 – The Fisheries Service announced that Puget Sound’s killer whales were “not significant” enough to warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Center responded by partnering with nearly a dozen other conservation groups to file a lawsuit against the agency for its failure to protect the whales.

2003 – The courts found the Fisheries Service’s 2002 announcement to be unlawful, thereby forcing the agency to reverse its decision and take steps toward species protection.

November 18, 2005 – The southern resident population of killer whales was listed as endangered.

November 29, 2006 – A total of 2,500 square miles of Puget Sound, Haro Strait, and Juan de Fuca Strait was designated as critical habitat for the Puget Sound killer whale.

November 26, 2012 – The National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would consider a petition to remove Endangered Species Act protections for Puget Sound’s killer whales.

January 16, 2014 – The Center filed a formal petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect more critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident population of killer whales.The petition requested that Endangered Species Act critical habitat protection be extended to the whales’ winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

January 25, 2016 – The National Marine Fisheries Service announced a five-year review of the status of southern resident killer whales, down to just 84 orcas. Since the agency didn't plan to expand habitat until 2017, however, the Center and other conservation groups urged officials to speed up that timeline.

November 4, 2016 – Conservation groups, including the Center, petitioned the Obama administration to create a 10-square-mile “whale protection zone” near San Juan Island to protect endangered orcas from vessel noise and disturbance that interferes with feeding.

Photo courtesy Flickr/Miles Ritter