conservation groups have sued NOAA Fisheries to make the agency revisit its
2009 decision finding that commercial and recreational fisheries did not
jeopardize survival of Southern Resident killer whales.
Center for Biological Diversity and Wild Fish Conservancy sued NOAA April 3 in
the U.S District Court, Western District of Washington, for what they say is
mismanagement of West Coast salmon fisheries and harming the critically
suit seeks to compel NOAA to assess and reduce the threat to the endangered
orcas from salmon fishing off Washington, Oregon and California. Southern
Residents are also threatened by pollution and disturbance from vessel traffic,
the groups said in a news release.
orcas starve to death, the Trump administration is refusing to protect salmon
populations crucial to their survival,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a Center for
Biological Diversity attorney. “Salmon and the killer whales that rely on them
are both in trouble, and this fishery must be better managed to promote their
recovery. If federal officials don’t act now, we’ll lose our chance to pull
these beloved animals back from the edge of extinction.”
complaint is at https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Puget_Sound_killer_whale/pdfs/Complaint-SKRW-Fisheries-April-3-2019.pdf
already reopened consultation on fisheries last month. In a March 6
supplemental guidance letter to Phil Anderson, chair of the Pacific Fishery
Management Council, Barry Thom, NOAA West Coast regional administrator, said
the agency is reopening consultation with PFMC on fisheries’ impacts on the
Orca whales, which are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered
is meeting this week April 9 – 16) in Rohnert Park, California to set spring and
summer fisheries off the West Coast (https://www.pcouncil.org/2019/03/57705/april-9-16-2019-council-meeting/).
the last 10 years, the population of the whales has declined from 87 to an
historical low of 74, and projections show a further decline in the future,
Thom’s guidance letter said.
along with the state of Washington, is taking a number of actions to conserve
and recover the killer whales by addressing the three main threats to their
existence: a declining number of chinook salmon, vessel traffic and noise, and
have been closely watching two ailing orcas that appear to be malnourished, the
groups said. Starving orcas show signs of “peanut head” – a condition in which
an individual has lost so much body fat that a depression appears behind its
January 2019 scientists confirmed the birth of a baby orca named Lucky. The
first calf to survive past birth since 2015, Lucky underscores the urgent need
to improve feeding opportunities for Southern Resident killer whales, they
and its pod were sighted in early April in Monterey Bay on the northern
California coast. Its location highlights “the expansive range of the Southern
Resident killer whales (which feed in the summer in Washington’s Puget Sound)
and the importance of protecting the salmon they eat throughout their range,”
the groups said.
salmon are important to the Southern Resident’s survival and recovery, Thom had
said in his guidance letter, and any activities that affect the abundance of
those salmon available to the whales have the potential to impact the survival
and population growth of the whales.
Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, said that the
federal government “can no longer ignore the scientific evidence that clearly
demonstrates the link between reduced size and abundance of chinook and the
reduced reproductive success of Southern Resident killer whales.”
August 2018 the Center sued NOAA for what they said is the agency’s failure to
protect the Orca’s full West Coast habitat. Also in August, the Center sued
NOAA to establish a “whale protection zone” to shield orcas from boat noise and
disturbance in the heart of their Puget Sound habitat.
most recent lawsuit focuses on what the groups say is NOAA’s obligation under
the ESA “to ensure that the Pacific Coast salmon fisheries do not jeopardize
the Southern Resident killer whales. That includes a requirement to use the
best available science on orcas to manage the salmon fishery.”
said that NOAA has relied on decade-old science to maintain the status quo in
the Pacific salmon fisheries while these orcas are starving.
not right, and it’s not what the Endangered Species Act calls for,” he said.
“West Coast orcas can’t afford another year without bold federal action based
on sound science to reverse their decline.”
Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation
organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated
to the protection of endangered species and wild places, the Center said.
Wild Fish Conservancy is a nonprofit conservation ecology organization
headquartered in Washington State and dedicated to preserving, protecting and
restoring the Northwest’s wild fish and the ecosystems they depend on, through
science, education and advocacy.
CBB, March 26, 2019, “NOAA Opens Consultation On Offshore Fisheries To Take A
Look At Impacts On Orcas,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/442354.aspx
CBB, February 22, 2019, “WDFW Seeking Public Participation in Setting Salmon
Fishing Seasons For 2019, Orcas A Factor,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/442199.aspx
CBB, February 1, 2019, “Study Looks At How Pink Salmon Biennial Abundance Years
May Be Connected To Orca Births, Deaths,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/442080.aspx
CBB, December 21, 2018, “Inslee Budget Includes Over $1 Billion For
Orcas/Salmon; $750,000 For Task Force On Snake Dams,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441942.aspx
CBB, September 28, 2018, “Orca Task Force Recommendations Include Focus On
Salmon Runs; Non-Native Game Fish To ‘Predatory,’” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441561.aspx
CBB, Sept. 14, 2018, “NOAA Fisheries Studying Nighttime Behavior Of Endangered
Killer Whales As Part Of Action Plan” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441483.aspx
May 11, 2018, “Puget Sound Boaters Asked To Observe ‘No-Go’ Zone To Protect
Foraging Orcas,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440697.aspx
March 16, 218, “Washington Governor Signs Executive Order To Protect Orcas,
Chinook Salmon” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440354.aspx
CBB, Jan. 15, 2016, “Study: Chinook Salmon Make Up 80 Percent Of Diet For
ESA-Listed Killer Whales In Pacific Northwest” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435857.aspx